Shaheen, Durbin Lead Virtual Bipartisan Meeting with Ambassadors from Eastern European NATO Countries to Discuss Ukraine-Russia Crisis

February 02, 2022

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation and Co-Chair of the Senate NATO Observer Group, and Majority Whip and Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus Co-Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) hosted a virtual conversation on the current military threat posed by Russia in Eastern Europe with Ambassadors from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, the Deputy Chief of Mission from Poland’s embassy and bipartisan members of the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus and the Senate NATO Observer Group. Given their proximity to Ukraine and Russia and their NATO membership, coordination is key to supporting Ukraine’s military capacity to defend itself and bolstering security in Eastern Europe.

U.S. Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Angus King (I-ME), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Mike Rounds (R-SD), John Barrasso (R-WY) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) also participated in the virtual meeting.

“As security conditions in Ukraine become increasingly precarious, transatlantic unity is the strongest defense we have to combat Russian belligerence and aggression. That’s why I’m pleased Ambassadors from key Eastern European countries joined our bipartisan meeting today to discuss how U.S. policy can support NATO’s response and bolster security on the eastern flank. Today’s meeting reiterated that the transatlantic alliance is united by our commitment to ensuring that Ukraine can chart its own future,” said Senator Shaheen. “As this crisis evolves, the U.S. will continue to engage our global partners at every level to bolster Ukraine’s military capabilities, levy potential sanctions against Russia and prioritize regional security. If diplomacy does not force Putin to recalculate, the transatlantic alliance stands ready to respond in support of Ukraine’s sovereignty.”

“The United States’ position is firm: the Ukrainian people must have the freedom to determine their own future. Russian belligerence and threats against Ukraine and our Baltic and Polish allies are a throwback to Russian President Putin’s warmed nostalgia for Soviet tyranny and must be resolutely deterred,” said Senator Durbin. “Today’s bipartisan meeting reaffirmed our commitment to our NATO Allies – and reiterated a Russian invasion of Ukraine would constitute a grave assault not only on Ukraine, but on the institutions and agreements that have kept the peace in Europe for almost 75 years. I look forward to working with our global partners to ensure stability and security in Eastern Europe and will continue to push back against Russian influence and encroachment on Ukraine’s sovereign land.”

“The meeting with Ambassadors from our Eastern European allies was an important conversation reaffirming the Senate’s support for the NATO alliance. As Putin moves Russian troops along the Ukrainian border, with every indication they will invade in the coming weeks, it is critical the United States and our NATO allies stand together to resist Putin’s latest aggression,” said Senator Tillis. “As co-chair of the Senate NATO Observer Group, I will work with Senator Shaheen to do whatever we can to show bipartisan support for our Eastern European allies and make it crystal clear that any Russian hostility will be met with a strong response against Putin and his regime.”

“Self-determination is a fundamental right of all people and nations. That is why the United States never recognized the Soviet occupation of the Baltic countries. Our bipartisan meeting today shows that no domestic political disagreements will get in the way of keeping our promises, and sends a strong unified signal about our unwavering resolve in the face of Russian aggression on the Ukrainian border,” said Senator Grassley, co-chair of the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus.

“The escalating Russian military threat to Ukraine is unacceptable and risks destabilizing the entire region,” said Senator Collins. “As a member of the Senate Baltic Caucus, I appreciated the opportunity to speak with Ambassadors from Eastern Europe today about the importance of sending a strong, united message to Russia.  The Baltic states and Poland have provided invaluable assistance to Ukraine so that the country can better defend itself in the event of an attack.  As the situation continues to evolve on the ground, I look forward to continuing to work with our NATO allies to enhance Ukraine’s defense capabilities and counter Russian aggression.”

"Today's meeting was an important affirmation of NATO'S united resolve against Russian aggression in Ukraine – not just in the halls of Congress, but for the world to see that America supports our allies,” said Senator King. "Vladimir Putin is attempting to use disinformation tactics – one of his specialties – to accuse the United States of seeking conflict in the region, when the facts prove just the opposite. The United States, and its allies, continue to seek a peaceful resolution to the growing crisis, but NATO will not be intimidated or into ignoring Russia's efforts to infringe on Ukrainian steady. The NATO alliance continues to have strong support from the United States, including bipartisan, bicameral support in the U.S. Congress, and we will work with our allies to support Ukraine's efforts to defend its basic sovereign rights.”

“Russia’s continued military aggression against Ukraine is deeply alarming,” said Senator Booker. “As a member of the Senate NATO Observer Group, I was pleased to meet with the ambassadors of four of our Eastern European allies to discuss the unfolding crisis, learn of how the United States can offer further support, and reaffirm our commitment to Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. I will continue to work with our allies, the Administration, and Congressional colleagues to ensure that any further hostile action undertaken by Russia is met with a coordinated, swift, and decisive response by the United States and its NATO allies.”

“As Russia continues to amass troops along the Ukrainian border and prepares for new military exercises in Belarus, the United States remains committed to supporting our allies in the Baltic states. Putin’s long term goal is to destroy NATO, and I was glad to meet with the ambassadors from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland today to reaffirm our message of bipartisan support and unity on Ukraine,” said Senator Murphy.

“Ukraine is a close ally of the United States – and the buildup of Russian troops along their border is alarming and unacceptable,” said Senator Peters, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Ukrainian Caucus. “It’s essential that we stand by our ally in this moment, and make it clear to Vladimir Putin and the Russian Government that they will face severe consequences if their military aggressions proceed further. I was pleased to meet with our Eastern European NATO allies today to reaffirm unwavering American support and discuss how we can peacefully deescalate the situation. In particular, Michiganders have stood shoulder to shoulder with our Latvian allies for nearly 30 years – our partnership remains vital to the safety and security of Eastern Europe, and I will continue working to strengthen this relationship. ”

“As Putin continues to increase aggression towards Ukraine, it is more important than ever to coordinate with and support our NATO allies,” said Senator Barrasso. “Today’s meeting with Ambassadors of European allies provided an opportunity to hear their critical insights about the current security risks in the region. It also reinforced America’s bipartisan support to bolster security across Eastern Europe and to assist Ukraine in defending itself against Russian aggression.”

Shaheen, also a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has led efforts to support Ukraine and hold the Kremlin accountable for its aggression. As a member of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, she recently led a bipartisan delegation with Senator Portman (R-OH) to Ukraine to reaffirm the U.S.’ commitment to Ukraine as it faces an increasingly belligerent Russia. Shaheen helped introduce the Defending Ukraine Sovereignty Act of 2022, which would impose crippling sanctions on the Russian banking sector and senior military and government officials if President Putin escalates hostile action in or against Ukraine. She’s currently working with the bipartisan group in the Senate on robust Russian sanctions legislation. She previously led a bipartisan delegation to Eastern Europe, which included a stop in Ukraine, in June 2021. Shaheen authored an op-ed in the Washington Post with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) in December, which can be read here.

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