Shaheen, Tillis Lead Senate NATO Observer Group in Letter to President Biden Ahead of Brussels Trip
**Letter follows a meeting led by Shaheen and Tillis yesterday with U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julie Smith on NATO’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine**
(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Thom Tillis (R-NC), Co-Chairs of the Senate NATO Observer Group, led members of the group on a bipartisan letter to President Biden ahead of his trip to Europe next week to participate in the NATO summit in Brussels. Shaheen and Tillis re-established the group in 2018. Yesterday, Shaheen and Tillis led a bipartisan virtual meeting with Julie Smith, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, to discuss the latest developments in NATO’s response to Russia’s premeditated war on Ukraine. This followed a meeting with Ambassador Smith that they led last month to discuss U.S. efforts with the NATO alliance to respond to the evolving crisis in Ukraine. Today’s letter was also signed by U.S. Senators Angus King (I-ME), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Chris Coons (D-DE), John Barrasso (R-WY), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ).
The Senators wrote, in part, “Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine reflects his refusal to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Russia’s neighbors. As a result, countless lives have been lost and the security framework of Europe that has kept peace for nearly 80 years is under attack. This unprovoked war threatens the ironclad sovereignty of each country in the region. We support your efforts to maintain transatlantic strength and unity at this critical moment for the alliance and have outlined a number of key issues we wish to convey ahead of your visit to Brussels.”
The Senators included a number of requests to President Biden, including consideration of additional military equipment to Ukraine to defend its skies, as President Zelenskyy requested in his address to Congress earlier this week. The Senators also requested that President Biden urge NATO to bolster its presence on the eastern flank to provide reassurance to all NATO members of the alliance vulnerable to Putin’s aggression.
In addition, the Senators urged the President to maintain a focus on the Balkans, where Russia has long played a destabilizing role to NATO aspirant countries from joining the alliance. They wrote, “The Balkans is a vulnerable area of Europe, and although Ukraine must occupy our immediate attention, we cannot lose sight of this region where NATO has long played a critical role in maintaining peace. In particular, we urge NATO to increase its engagement in the region and consider contingency measures in the event that Russia vetoes the renewal of the European Union Forces mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina at the United Nations Security Council later this year.”
The Senators closed their letter by urging the President to add an additional stop to an Eastern European NATO country to convey support to the region, specifically, in a Baltic country or Romania, which are standing up in support of collective democratic values and mutual security interests.
The Senators concluded, “Ukraine is fighting for more than its freedom. They are courageously fighting for our collective values. We hope you can further mobilize NATO member countries to provide greater security assistance for Ukraine at this critical time and further bolster the NATO alliance.”
The letter can be read in full here.
The Senate NATO Observer Group, re-established by Shaheen and Tillis in 2018, 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. The Senate NATO Observer Group currently includes 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans. Shaheen and Tillis recently issued a joint bipartisan statement marking the fourth anniversary of the Senate NATO Observer Group.