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LaHood: Russia must face consequences if it invades Ukraine

 U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood said Russia is provoking the U.S. because of the Biden administration's troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Eric Stock
U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood said Russia is provoking the U.S. because of the Biden administration's troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Republican U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood said the United States has to make clear to Russia that it will face dire consequences if it invades Ukraine.

U.S. intelligence has indicated Russia has about 100,000 troops along the Ukraine border and has the capacity to increase its force to 175,000. That is fueling concerns of a Russian invasion.

LaHood spoke with reporters about the situation while at Hopedale Medical Center on Friday to hear about staffing and other COVID-related concerns at rural hospitals.

LaHood called Russian president Vladimir Putin a “thug and a dictator.” The Peoria Republican said the U.S. must back the Ukrainian democracy. “I don’t think Putin wants Russian soldiers going back in body bags in Russia, that’s not good for him from a nationalistic standpoint,” LaHood said. “Putin is the ultimate chess player, but I think he senses weakness in the United States.”

LaHood said Putin is provoking because of last summer's U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghanistan that LaHood called that an "epic failure."

President Joe Biden has defended ending U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. He said it was something his three predecessors failed to do. The Taliban took over Afghanistan days after U.S. forces left.

LaHood said he supports the U.S. helping Ukraine with money and weapons — which the U.S. has done — and backing NATO for international support, but he said he doesn't foresee U.S. troops being deployed there.

LaHood also is among a group of House Republicans urging the Biden administration to pull out of nuclear talks with Iran.

“Iran has shown no ability or willingness to abide by international rules, international standards,” LaHood said. “They continue to be engaged in terrorist activities, whether it’s Yemen, whether it’s in Lebanon supporting Hezbollah, whether it’s in Iraq, whether it’s in Syria.”

Iran-backed militias also are suspected in a recent assassination attempt of Iraq's prime minister, as LaHood noted.

LaHood said he's concerned Iran is building its nuclear arsenal while the U.S. works toward a new agreement. The Trump administration pulled out of the nuclear deal in 2019.

LaHood said economic sanctions are the only thing that gets Iran's attention.

On the home front, the U.S. Senate started debate Tuesday on a voting rights bill that the House previously passed.

LaHood voted against it because he said he doesn't want to see nationalized elections.

“I don’t want elections in Illinois to be like California, where (they are) ballot harvesting, you don’t have to have an ID to vote. Leave it up to individual states to do that,” he said.

Voting rights advocates say 19 mostly Republican-led states have approved voting restrictions in the last year after then-President Donald Trump repeatedly and falsely claimed the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

The voting rights bill would only get enough support to pass if the Senate can change filibuster rules because the issue is split along party lines.

President Biden has said he supports changing the filibuster to pass voting rights, but moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema have said they oppose changing those rules. That makes its passage unlikely.

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Eric Stock is a reporter at WGLT.