Unrest Overseas


Date: July 25, 2014
Issues: Foreign Affairs

As Nebraskans continue to monitor ongoing conflicts overseas, I'd like to offer some thoughts on just a few of the troubling events occurring around the world. The recent attack of Flight 17, a commercial airliner filled with nearly 300 innocent passengers, over Ukraine is deeply concerning. Russian-leaning separatists, those responsible for the attack, denied access to the crash site for days, delaying the return home of the bodies to grieving loved ones. I know many Nebraskans join me in offering prayers for the families of the passengers who were lost, which include an American citizen.

While many questions remain unanswered, we do know the missile came from separatist-held territory within Ukraine. We also know Russia has provided separatists with advanced weapons, including anti-aircraft weapons, training, financial support and other assistance.

Russia has made statements in support of an investigation, but it remains to be seen whether it will stop supplying the separatists with weapons. The conflict is now much larger than just a regional dispute between Russia and Ukraine. As a result of Russia's recklessness, 300 innocent people are dead.

Sanctions against Russia, which President Obama announced before the attack on Flight 17, were a step in the right direction. However, in light of recent events, I believe we must do more. For example, we could expand restrictions and prohibit Russian entities from using U.S. dollars in their financial transactions. This action would send a strong signal from the United States that Russia must abandon its territorial ambitions and respect the rule of law.

We should also consider providing more material assistance to the Ukrainian military. To date, we have only provided "Meals Ready to Eat," radios, and body armor. We can do more to help Ukraine deter Russia, including assistance with intelligence sharing, fuel, and ammunition.

Violence is also raging in the Middle East, including in Israel and Gaza. The deaths of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians are truly tragic, and I completely support Israel's right to defend itself from the rocket attacks launched by Hamas.

These attacks on Israel are a reminder to the world that Hamas is undeniably a terrorist group -- one that is committed to Israel's destruction and willing to use indiscriminate violence to achieve its goals. Hamas is firing rockets from civilian areas and hiding rockets in mosques, hospitals and schools. They even tried to hide rockets in a school run by the U.N. This latest round of violence should galvanize the entire international community to press Hamas to renounce violence and commit to peace.

Lastly, I would like to update you on my ongoing efforts to offer commonsense solutions for problems impacting Nebraska's communities. In addition to introducing legislation to strengthen workplace flexibility and economically empower middle class families, I recently offered a bipartisan bill to explore how to increase local television programming.

Nearly one-third of counties in Nebraska currently face challenges receiving local broadcast programming, including local news, weather, sports, and emergency alerts. This has limited access to important local information, negatively impacting our communities.

That's why I worked with Senator Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to introduce The Let Our Communities Access Local TV (LOCAL TV) Act. Our bill requires the FCC to study how designated market areas affect access to local and in-state broadcast television programming. The bill requires the FCC to provide a report to Congress with recommendations on how to increase local coverage in states served by out-of-state media markets.

I believe this legislation is an important step toward ensuring all communities have access to local, relevant information from Nebraska broadcast outlets. Rest assured I will continue to work to strengthen consumer choice and control over video programming.

Thank you for taking part in our democratic process. I look forward to visiting with you again next week.