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Karina Lipsman, a Ukrainian-born U.S. citizen running to represent Virginia‘s 8th Congressional District, believes the Biden administration “did not do everything in its power to prevent” Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“[I]n terms of what happened, the crisis did not develop overnight. We had intelligence for months that we could have acted on that said Russia was going to invade, and we had all these possible scenarios that we could have played out – the least likely of which was that full invasion by Russia into Ukraine … which is exactly what we’re experiencing right now,” Lipsman told Fox News Digital.
Lipsman, who worked for a decade in the defense industry and held some of the highest security clearances within the intelligence community and the Department of Defense, added that despite the administration’s access to “the time, the intelligence, the capabilities and even the Ukrainian government pleading for help,” the White House “did not do much to prevent that least likely scenario from happening.”
Karina grew up in Ukraine, then the Soviet Union, until she was 8 years old. She has fond memories of Odesa, the port city along the Black Sea where she grew up, known for its 19th-century architecture and views of the ocean.
But she does remember the day before she left the Soviet Union, which was on the brink of collapse at the time, when she went to a partially emptied market with her grandmother in the morning to buy half a loaf of bread and bring it home. Later that day, she and her grandmother returned to the market for another half loaf, and the price had tripled within a matter of hours.
Today, Ukrainian markets are partially emptied again as the country faces the economic impacts of a war with Russia. Residents in Odesa are taking shelter with friends and family as they await airstrikes. Russian officials have repeated the claim that the purpose of their invasion is to bring peace to Ukraine, but the scenes in cities like Odesa and Kyiv are anything but peaceful.
“It’s devastating,” Lipsman said, noting that Ukrainian and Russian Americans with family and friends abroad feel “powerless on a personal level.”
Lipsman believes the U.S. should have implemented more severe sanctions against Russia and equipped Ukraine with better defense equipment in the months leading up to Russia’s February invasion.
If Russia does successfully topple the Ukrainian government as it intends, the U.S. is “going to have a really difficult time supporting Ukraine,” she said.
Her experiences working in the defense industry and growing up as an American immigrant are part of the reason Lipsman feels prepared to take on Congress. Northern Virginians are mostly concerned about education, crime and the economy, according to Lipsman.
“I understand the power of education and talk about that going to public school funding,” she said.
When Lipsman came to the United States, she and her single mother settled in a not-so-nice area of Baltimore. She didn’t know any English at the time and recalled being mortified on her first day at an American public school when her classmates stood up and recited the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of class, and she couldn’t understand them. Lipsman had to take English as a Second Language (ESL) classes for a year before she began speaking fluently.
Lipsman’s mother wanted to give her daughter “the opportunities that she was not able to get” for her had they stayed in Ukraine “because of the oppression, because of the inflation, because of the regime in the way that it was,” Lipsman said.
“It didn’t really allow you to live your full potential and people were discouraged from being self-sufficient and more encouraged to rely on the government,” she explained.
The now-congressional candidate, who eventually earned her graduate degree from Johns Hopkins University, attended public school from the time she moved to Baltimore until she graduated from high school and eventually earned her citizenship at age 18.
In college, she took on a full-time finance job while earning her undergraduate degree in just three years, so she could avoid taking out loans to pay for her education. She knew she “probably had to work harder than most people” who were born in the U.S. to achieve “the American dream.”
“I believe to be the American dream is freedom and the liberties that we have here to be able to do any things that you want to do,” she said. “So if you want to go be a politician, you can go be a politician. If you want to be a CEO, you can be a CEO. … The opportunities are endless. There’s no oppression. You’re able to just speak out against your government and not be scared [of] being thrown in jail. You can practice your faith and not be afraid of any repercussions.”
She added that those in Ukraine and Russia “don’t have that ability to sustain those kinds of freedoms because they’re still under an oppressed regime.”
Lipsman hopes she can bring her values, life experiences and work expertise in both the finance and defense industries to Congress in 2022.
“Virginia was ready for a change by electing Glenn Youngkin last year, so we saw that momentum … across all of Virginia. Northern Virginia, I think, is starting to get there,” she said, adding that “it’s been encouraging to see … more independents, more moderates, more conservative Democrats coming out and making it possible for us to come together as a community, as a district and as a country.”