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Shaheen, Tillis Lead NATO Senate Observer Group Meeting with NATO Ambassador Julie Smith

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), co-chairs of the Senate NATO Observer Group, issued the following statements after meeting with U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julie Smith to discuss U.S. efforts with the NATO alliance to respond to the evolving crisis in Ukraine amid increasing Russian aggression.

“As Russia’s unprovoked belligerence escalates the crisis in Ukraine, a united response from the U.S. and our North Atlantic allies is our strongest defense to hold the Kremlin accountable. I appreciated speaking with Ambassador Smith today to discuss how the Senate NATO Observer Group can work with the administration to strengthen transatlantic unity and bolster security for Ukraine and Eastern Europe,” said Shaheen. “Today’s meeting sent a strong bipartisan message from Congress that NATO unity – with the U.S. and our allies speaking as one voice – is key to responding to Russia’s demands and aggression. Putin’s efforts to divide our alliance have only made it stronger, and the U.S. will continue to work with our NATO allies and partners to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities and counter a potential Russian invasion.”

“Today’s meeting with Ambassador Smith was a productive conversation. Russia is moving troops along the Ukrainian border with every indication they might invade Ukraine in the coming weeks, and it is critical the United States and our NATO allies stand up to Putin’s latest tyranny,” said 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 aggression will be met with a strong response against Putin and his regime. Democracy and sovereignty are in danger, and we must affirm our support for Ukraine and do everything in our power to protect our allies.”

Shaheen and Tillis serve as co-chairs of the Senate NATO Observer Group, which they re-established in 2018. The group has an expanded mission to closely monitor and inform Senators outside of national security committees about defense spending commitments of Alliance members, the process of upgrading military capabilities, the Alliance’s counter-terrorism capability, NATO enlargement and the ability of NATO member states to address non-conventional warfare. Shaheen and Tillis released a joint statement in December on the buildup of Russian military forces along Ukraine’s border, as well as sent a letter with fellow members of the Senate NATO Observer Group to President Biden urging him to use diplomatic talks at the NATO-Russia Council meeting to deter Russian dictator Vladimir Putin from further invading Ukraine and make clear that the U.S. will not accept Putin’s demands to dictate NATO’s decision-making.