Ukrainian American Rep. Spartz takes on leading role in GOP response to Russian invasion of her home country

U.S. Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-Ind., never thought that she would have the life she has now.

Growing up in Ukraine when it was a Soviet republic, she did not imagine immigrating to the United States at the age of 21 after falling in love with an American she met on a train while living in Kyiv. Once in Noblesville, Spartz said she prioritized raising her two daughters before becoming an accountant and then embracing public service, first as a state senator and then getting elected to Congress in 2020.

It never crossed her mind that she would serve in Congress at a time when her home country was being invaded by Russia.

“I never wanted to think that I would have to deal with a crisis like that. I never, you know, thought that I’d be in the place where I am. Sometimes it makes me wonder if God has a reason for that,” Spartz, who represents Indiana’s 5th District, said in an interview. “I want to be an asset for our country, to be helpful to deal with this situation. I have that experience.”

As the first Ukrainian-born immigrant to serve in the U.S. Congress, the freshman lawmaker has taken a leading role for Republicans in voicing both the horror of what the world is witnessing during the Russian invasion and arguing for what the United States should do in response. On Tuesday night, she will be part of the group of lawmakers who will escort President Joe Biden into the House chamber for a State of the Union address that is expected to focus heavily on the conflict happening in her home country.

Rep. Victoria Spartz, R-5th District., a native of Ukraine, makes a passionate appeal for action against the Russian invasion on Tuesday at the Capitol. (The Washington Post photo/Bill O’Leary)

Spartz, 43, has joined her Republican colleagues in harshly criticizing Biden for his handling of the Ukrainian crisis, including for not imposing sanctions on Russia before the invasion—a move the White House has said would not have deterred Russian President Vladmir Putin and may have caused him to invade earlier.

“So I think we have an obligation and duty to save this world, save Ukrainian people to survive and this president needs to get his act together and exercise some leadership. What is happening under his watch is atrocity. What he’s doing to this country and the world is unforgivable,” she said at a House Republican news conference Tuesday. “But I think we will get together as Republican and Democrat but he must act decisively fast or blood of many Ukrainians will be on his hand too.”

The White House has pushed back against these criticisms, noting that Biden worked with European allies to hit Moscow, as well as Putin personally, with harsh sanctions in an attempt to cripple Russia’s economy.

And while Spartz has been heavily critical of Biden, she has been less so of former president Donald Trump, who was impeached in 2019 but later acquitted by the Senate for withholding military aid and a White House visit for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as he pushed for an investigation into the activities of Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son, in Ukraine.

She was reluctant in an interview to criticize Trump for his recent comments about how Putin has handled his decision to invade Ukraine saying it was “genius,” “pretty savvy” and “pretty smart” because “he’s taking over a country for $2 worth of sanctions.”

Spartz said she doesn’t “always like how he expresses his language,” but she thinks Trump is correct on the premise that Putin is clever, often fooling the United States and the rest of the world to react rather than counter him on the front end.

“We’re always not just two steps behind, but 10 steps behind,” she said. “He really utilizes our weaknesses to his ambitions and advantages.”

Spartz was elected in 2020 running on a small government platform and arguing that Democrats were becoming the party of socialism. She and eight other GOP freshmen established the “Freedom Force” to counter the liberal “Squad.” Besides Spartz, the group also includes three Republicans whose families fled communist Cuba, including Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla., and Nicole , R-N.Y.

She had spent her fist term in Congress mostly focusing on domestic issues until the crisis broke out in Ukraine.

Spartz said she has been proactive in pitching herself as a helpful asset to the administration. In recent weeks, she reminded Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley in separate phone calls of how her unique experience growing up Ukraine, her fluency in both Russian and Ukrainian and her understanding of how politicians work abroad could be of help to them.

She said she also made a direct appeal to the White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, whose family hails from her district. Her request to speak with Klain has gone unanswered and others in the administration haven’t followed up on her calls.

“That’s all you can do,” she said of her calls.

Spartz has focused most of her efforts on trying to bring home the seriousness of the attack on Ukraine to her House Republican colleagues and has spoken twice during recent weekly conference meetings, including Tuesday.

She has joined some of her GOP colleagues in calling for the United States and its allies to find ways to cut off their reliance on Russian oil and gas supplies while boosting oil and gas drilling in the United States.

During a meeting with the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus on Monday, Ukrainian ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova pleaded with members for the United States to stop receiving oil imports from Russia.

“She pretty much said, you know, ‘every drop of oil and gas is full of Ukrainian blood and you’re not even talking about doing anything. You’re still buying Russian energy,'” Spartz recalled.

Another issue Congress will have to answer is a potential refugee crisis as more Ukrainians flee their country. Spartz has joined a growing list of House Republicans who have called for applying relaxed immigration rules to Ukrainian refugees so they can come to the United States.

Spartz said her current focus on the invasion and the active role she is playing in Congress has taken her away from checking in with family and friends who remain abroad.

“I’ve talked to some people, some acquaintances, but I didn’t really even have much time to call people. It’s hard to even call people because people are sitting underground. A lot of their phones now the batteries are dead,” she said. “I’ve been so busy dealing with all of this here, so ultimately, I cannot do much to help them there.”

She said the personal toll on her is “very difficult,” especially as she sees herself in the faces of mothers trying to protect their young children from the cruel realities of war.

“It’s a devastating when you see that. It doesn’t matter which country it is, you know, it’s sad. Such a loss of life about nothing. You have one person holding the whole world hostage,” she said.

But she said she believes in the resilience of the Ukrainian people despite the grave danger they face.

“I hope things will get better; you have to always stay optimistic. But as I said, it’s a David-versus-Goliath fight,” she said. “In the long run, Ukrainians are not going to surrender. Ukrainians are just not going to submit. Russia is going to lose at the end, but it will cost a lot of lives.”

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

53 thoughts on “Ukrainian American Rep. Spartz takes on leading role in GOP response to Russian invasion of her home country

  1. You supported the crooked lying fraudulent Trump who tried to overthrow our government. Trump weakened Ukraine and NATO and strengthened Russia, Iran and North Korea. Trump divided our country and alienated our allies.

    Maybe instead of constantly criticizing our decent honest POTUS you should be united and work on solutions together.

    1. Joe Biden was in charge of Ukraine policy in 2014 when Russia took Crimea.

      Joe Biden was in charge of US Foreign Policy, including Ukraine, in 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine.

      Putin didn’t invade Ukraine unless Biden was in charge.

      You got your facts a little wrong there, buddy.

      Oh, by the way, Trump strengthened NATO by demanding GREATER funding by those who were under the 2% requirement set forth in the NATO charter.

    2. D.H. is delusional. Trump was always in Putin’s back pocket, and if he were president now, he would have cheered on the invasion of Ukraine, just as he has done explicitly as ex-president. It is total fantasy to claim that Trump deterred Putin, that Trump strengthened NATO. Absolute crazy talk that defies the clear, fact-based reality of what actually happened when Trump was president and he withheld aid from Ukraine in an extortion scheme to try to improve his political standing. How are so many people so detached from reality? And with all due respect to Rep. Spartz, she was a huge Trump cheerleader even as he was harming her own native country. That is the absolute truth.

    3. “Trump was always in Putin’s back pocket”. Base on… what? A phony Russiagate hoax that was funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2016, for which one of her attorneys has already been indicted for lying to the FBI and CIA and Senate about?

      Trump obviously deterred Putin through tough sanctions and tough policy to strengthen NATO. Why do you think Putin invaded Ukraine TWICE while Biden was in charge in 2014 and 2022?

      Joe Biden was in charge of Ukraine policy as Vice President in 2014. “Inconvenient Truth” that you keep your heads in the sand on.

      While Joe Biden was VP, he withheld billions in aid from Ukraine in order to have Ukraine fire its prosecutor Viktor Shokin. Why was Biden obsessed with getting the prosecutor fired? It’s possible that he did that because his own son Hunter was on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm known for corruption?

    4. D.H., I will permit you to have the last word, since it is pure folly to get into an online argument over facts with someone who gets their facts from Fox News, OAN and the rest of the fact-free alternative universe. I will not bother to get into facts about what you say is a “Russiagate hoax,” since the majority of thinking people realize that it was a hoax only in the fantasies of Donald Trump and Bill Barr, it could not have been financed in 2016 by the Hillary campaign since the investigation didn’t even begin until 2017, and the indictment you mention is already falling apart under the scrutiny of daylight. Trump did not strengthen Russian sanctions, he reduced them. He did not strengthen NATO, he tried to destroy it. And as for Shokin, he was pressured out of office not because he was investigating corruption, but because he was interfering with investigations into corruption and his staff itself was accused of corruption. The pressure came not just from the U.S. but the EU and the International Monetary Fund. In fact, Shokin and his office were criticized not for investigating Burisma Holdings, but for slow-walking the investigation into Burisma that they inherited from an earlier prosecutor, and allegedly trying to solicit bribes from the targets. The U.S. and other Western powers wanted him to crack down on corruption, and he was not. In addition, the Burisma investigations pertained to allegations of incidents said to have occurred before Hunter Biden joined the board. So again, real-life facts do not support the fantasy you are trying to create. Now, feel free to contradict all of this with more fact-free allegations. I am done trying to refute delusion.

    5. Steve,

      Crossfire Hurricane investigation into Trump started in early to mid 2016, before the election.

      In fact, one of the promulgators of the Russiagate hoax was Jake Sullivan, who in late October 2016, tweeted about the secret server connection between Trump and Alfa Bank, which was a 100% fabricated allegation from Hillary, Sullivan, Sussmann, and Joffe.

      Jake Sullivan is now Biden’s NSC advisor.

    6. Nate, it’s not my fault you’re ignorant of current events by not following the indictments in the John Durham investigation.

  2. Representative Spartz, we support you and your native land. Please remain courageous and steadfast as you lead our country to hopefully oppose the tyranny of the Russian dictator. Our prayers are for you and your native land.

  3. Biden is playing right into Putin’s hands but why would that be a surprise to anyone. He is much smarter than Biden unfortunately and the USA and all the world will suffer due to his ineptitude. It is unforgiveable that in January of 2021 we were energy-independent under Trump, and now we are buying oil from Russia. The Dems are trying to spin the narrative but the truth is very obvious to anyone who can see and hear. God help us.

    1. ..oh, and Putin is much, much smarter than Trump. Played him like a drum. Not in his wildest dreams could he have ever though interfering in the presidential election could have paid such dividends. Setting the table for….

    2. Jolf, you do realize that Russiagate was a hoax perpetrated and funded by the Hillary Clinton Campaign in 2016, don’t you?

  4. With the US being the bogey man of Putin’s propaganda, the US has to step very carefully. As unhinged as Putin seems to have become, it would not take much for Putin to find justification to start lobbing nuclear weapons. Biden has done a wonderful job of leading the west in diplomacy.

    I think history will eventually reveal financial ties between Trump and Russia, and eventually explain Trump’s Russian butt kissing.

    1. Yeah……. great statemenship from Biden, whose inaction directly resulted in Ukraine being invaded by Russia.

      Great idea to put sanctions AFTER Putin already invaded Ukraine. Biden is a moron, always has been in his 40 years of “public service”.

    2. Amen. BIden has had to repair all the damage Trump did to NATO and get members to trust the US again and work together – and agree to sanctions that most probably will affect them more than us. We all know what would have happened if Trump was still president.

    3. Jolf, are you serious? “We all know what would have happened if Trump was still president.”

      Putin INVADED Ukraine with BIDEN as President. Putin INVADED Crimea with BIDEN as Vice-President in charge of Ukraine policy.

  5. @ DH Rubbish. Biden was making sure he had a coalition before he charged in – and that he didn’t provoke Putin prematurely. Putin has got away with murder from both side of the aisle – Bush with Georgia, Obama and Crimea – and ” why would he…or was it why wouldn’t he ” Trump, who has less brains than my left foot. Which is not very smart…

    1. “Provoke Putin prematurely”? What are you smoking? Putin INVADED Ukraine because Biden didn’t put sanctions on Russia before the invasion.

      Putin invaded Crimea while Biden was VP in charge of Ukraine policy in 2014.

      Putin didn’t try anything stupid while Trump was President. Leave it up to boneheaded Biden to screw up TWICE in 2014 and 2022. Amazing!

  6. Biden screwed up Ukraine policy in 2014.

    Biden botched the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

    Biden botched the Russia invasion deterrence in 2022.

    Who would have thought that electing a moron as stupid as Biden to President could have resulted in multiple foreign policy disasters, runaway inflation not seen in 40 years, 2 million illegal immigrants coming over the border in 12 months, record high murder rates, and violations of human rights of American citizens en masse?

  7. Putin alone is responsible for invading Ukraine. It has been years since America has had a strong president because both parties put up candidates that play to their extreme bases. Trump was a Putin loving~ all talk president surrounded by at least some competent folks until they resigned or were fired. Biden is at kind, not especially strong, but not an authoritarian lover like Trump. Neither are best America has, but neither are responsible for the evil that Putin is subjecting Ukraine to at this time.

    1. You are right: Putin alone is responsible. But let’s not delude ourselves: Trump was so “loving” of Putin that he bombed Putin’s troops in Syria in his first year of office. So Putin loving Putin that he imposed energy sanctions (Nord Stream)…which Biden then lifted.

      Trump is a sleaze bag for whom I genuinely have no great fondness. I find his personality largely repellent. Because he seemed of such dubious moral character, I genuinely believed the Mueller investigation would turn up dirt. But, after making #45 the most investigated president in modern history, most of which yielded nothing (and certainly nothing regarding Russian collusion), I did something that the other TDS suffers here seem incapable of doing: I admitted I WAS WRONG.

      All of the ideologues making their cases here are blinding themselves to the fact that the Crimea annexation took place during Obama’s term, and now this. If trump were so “Putin loving” wouldn’t Putin want to invade during a US puppet presidency because there’d be far less pushback? Why wait until now?

      Biden may not be an “authoritarian lover” but he seems to be an enabler. And if China invades Taiwan (as seems increasingly likely) and Biden continues to raise his fist as the clouds, it’s hard not to think he’s hesitant to get tough…because these Sino/Ruso authoritarians have dirt on him, as well as his many financial interests.

      But sure, let’s just come together while the media churns out partisan propaganda 24/7, hair-triggered to keep us divided. A certain unsavory character correctly observed who the true “enemy of the people” is–and this enemy is far sleazier than he has been.

    2. I’m sorry Lauren~ The dis before the agree didn’t get typed. Peace to you~ but no~ I do not agree. However, that’s not important. American unity is important now more than ever and so are the innocent lives in Ukraine. I pray our country comes together and remembers division is what Putin wants.

    3. Leslie, if you want unity, you should be asking why Biden is calling half of America “white supremacists” and racists.

  8. If Trump were president, one really does not know what he would do.

    When Trump was president he ‘played’ into Putin hand to assure Ukraine would not move away from the Russiasphere. Despite mind-control social media that has many US citizens in a trance of misinformation and denial, #45 lost fair and square.

    Indeed it is time for the US to be united and to seek with other allies a means to address this Ukraine crisis. It is clear, this invasion is wrong. The US, however, is not the world controller and must work with others.

    1. +1.

      And the honest truth is fiscal libertarian and pro America constituents like me see through the scam that is Spartz.

      Just wake up already everyone.

    2. So you prefer a LYING, GRIFTING, CORRUPT prezident who is no better than Putin. donald Dump loves his dictators, but they all know he’s a FOOL…

  9. Putin is a man that understands and acts on weakness. Although Trump had his share of misgivings has was not weak. This invasion would not have happened under his watch. Rep. Spartz is a woman of character, we need more like her in congress.

  10. Oh man… Reading these comments is just really disappointing. I wonder, and fear, what it would really take to get Americans to agree on anything.

    I appreciate Representative Spartz’s concern for her home country, and I share it, but I don’t see how her comment that what President Biden “is doing to this country and the world is unforgivable” is at all helpful. It seems that all the Republicans can offer is that President Biden should have enacted sanctions before Putin invaded Ukraine, as if a pro-active economic strike would have deterred Putin. It just seems to defy logic to me. Parents don’t punish children to prevent them from doing something wrong; rather they threaten the punishment to prevent the unwanted behavior, and then impose the punishment if the unwanted behavior occurs. What would be the incentive for Putin to not invade Ukraine if we had already imposed massive economic sanctions on Russia, Putin, the Russian oligarchs et al?

    1. While your point about parents punishing children is true, Biden lifted Russia sanctions that Trump imposed, Paul. Could we at least infer that those Nord Stream sanctions might have been long-overdue punishment for Putin’s actions in Crimea?

    2. You could infer that. I’m not sure that it is the business of our country to try to prevent a pipeline in Europe though. I suppose you would argue that the Biden administration’s waiver of the Nord Stream 2 sanctions gave Putin the idea that he could get away with a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. But if that were true, wouldn’t he now turn back after having all these sanctions imposed? If the sanctions would’ve prevented the invasion, they also should have the effect of reversing it.

    3. You say their pipeline is their business, but our politicians go over to Europe to tell them to turn off their nuclear and coal plants so they can use unreliable solar and wind and use Russian gas for baseline energy production.

      Europe put themselves at the mercy of Putin through their green energy delusion at the behest of clueless US politicians.

    1. Actually, if Trump was president, and he was, Russia wouldn’t have invaded Ukraine, because he didn’t.

      Biden completely screwed up the Afghanistan withdrawal, resulting in 13 US Marines being murdered, and Putin realized that Biden is a bigger moron than he was in 2014 when Putin took over Crimea.

    2. ‘Hard to imagine Biden being “a bigger moron”: than in 2014, D. H., but he has indeed accomplished it.

    1. No she didn’t disrespect Biden. She said what a lot of people were thinking! He DOES need to “get his act together” and actually lead for a change….

  11. Now Rep. Spartz is brought into the room and has to join the grown up’s table. It’s a world where problems are complex and the decisions are never perfect. It’s a world where issues have nuance that require assimilating some facts that can be known but many more data points and anecdotal input that aren’t so concrete. The best decision today might be made differently tomorrow. You know, grown up stuff.

  12. Got his act together facts for the last 14 months:

    S&P 500 Index at record highs 12-10-2021
    Keeping fixed mortgages at 3.1% 12-9-2021
    Consumer Spending increasing to 13.9 trillion 10-1-2021
    Debt to GNP Ratio dropping 9% from 2020 to 2021
    Unemployment levels at 4%. There is an actual labor shortage
    GNP reaching all-time highs 9-1-2021, from a negative 19.2 % July 2020 (Trump)
    NASDA increased 12751 to 16057 from 11-2020 -11-2021
    Dow Jonex Industrial Average Index (year to date 12-2020-12-2021) up 17.53%
    Itel, Samsung & other Computer Chip Firms ReShoring new manufacturing facilities
    The largest successful airlift since the Berlin airlift with “no” operational casualties (despite a extremely shitty agreement dumped on him)
    Investments of tens of $Billions into new EV – Electric Vehicle Manufacturing Complexes
    Unifying all the NATO countries together (with many neighbors) confronting Putin and imposing painful sanctions
    All without “Grand Standing”!

    What the hell has she accomplished in the same time line?

    1. Inflation at 15-30% annually negates any “increase” in price.

      Please learn about real vs nominal dollars to understand that Biden is responsible for the worst inflation trends in 40 years.

  13. Never underestimate Joe’s ability to F things up.
    1.Afghanistan
    2.Inflation
    3.Border Policy
    4.Energy Independence/Gas prices
    5.Employees “Real Wages”
    6.Supporting such an extreme legislative policy even democrats won’t support.
    Trump was a mouthy A-hole, but had great policy achievements. Biden inarguably gets an “F” on 1-6. Afghanistan was the biggest US foreign policy debacle since the Vietnam pullout. And leave it to Joe to bring back Jimmy Carter style inflation. Now Ol’ Joe is now reuniting the former Soviet Union. What’s next for Joe gas lines? Maybe another “Great Depression? I’m not a huge Trump fan, (at least he’s not a socialist) but leave it to Joe to bring Trump back as President.

{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining
{{ articles_remaining }}
Free {{ article_text }} Remaining Article limit resets on
{{ count_down }}