Durbin: Amid Putin's War, NATO Is Stronger Than Ever

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin calls for more assistance for Ukraine and passage of his Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act; rebukes Russian threats against Lithuania

WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, condemned Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine. Durbin highlighted the bipartisan meeting with Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), also Co-Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, and members of the Ukrainian Parliament last week. They discussed how the U.S. Senate can continue to better support Ukraine through military, economic, and humanitarian assistance.

During his speech, Durbin emphasized the need to stop Putin from entrenching in the eastern part of Ukraine. He also praised President Biden’s leadership in rallying our NATO allies.

Durbin said, “President Biden has played a key role in rallying NATO allies and providing equipment and support that have allowed the Ukrainians to so heroically defend their nation… This kind of security aid typically takes months to process and deliver.  But weapons are being delivered to Ukraine at unprecedented speed, some in as little as 48 hours. Technical assistance, training, and humanitarian aid continue in parallel. In fact, under President Biden’s leadership, the NATO alliance has never been more unified or formidable...including with two new members, Finland and Sweden, hoping to join soon, a step I strongly support.”

Durbin also urged additional military aid for Ukraine, including long-range artillery to withstand and repel the Russian onslaught from eastern Ukraine. Durbin, Portman, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin today, urging him to send more advanced artillery rocket systems and ammunition to Ukraine, as the systems are vital in Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s brutal invasion. He also called for additional assistance to help Ukraine export more than 20 million tons of grain being blockaded by Russia, furthering food insecurity in some of the world's poorest nations.  It is estimated that barely half of Ukraine’s grain harvest can be exported this year.  

“Secretary of State Blinken rightly has accused Russia of using food as a weapon of war,” said Durbin. “And there are credible reports that Russia has stolen Ukrainian grain, only to cynically resell it on the world market… So, our task and that of our allies must include not only the sustained and updated supply of critical weaponry, but also help to reopen and secure Ukrainian ports and find alternative land routes for this year’s harvest.”

Today, Attorney General Garland, in his visit to Ukraine, announced the formation of a War Crimes Accountability Team within the Justice Department to provide legal counsel and expertise in evidence collection and forensics. In May, Durbin, and Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), along with Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI) and Victoria Spartz (R-IN), introduced the bipartisan, bicameral Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act, legislation that updates the current war crimes statute to enable prosecution of war criminals in the United States regardless of the location or targets of their atrocities. The bill also extends the statute of limitations for war crimes discovered years after they occur.

Durbin, Co-Chair of the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus, concluded his speech by thanking the Baltic States, particularly Lithuania, for their commitment to democracy and NATO. Over the weekend, Russia threatened Lithuania for preventing goods sanctioned by the EU from being transported through its territory to the Russian territory of Kaliningrad. 

“Who can forget the Baltic Way—a human chain of two million people who joined hands across Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania 33 years ago to call for independence from the Soviet Union,” Durbin said. “Since then, Lithuania has flourished as a vocal and vibrant member of the European Union and NATO. And this small nation of nearly three million has never forgotten its struggle for freedom.”

“It’s an affirmation of the foolishness of Putin. He actually thought at the end of the day by invading Ukraine, NATO would be weaker. Now it will be stronger than ever and frankly right up against his own country,” Durbin concluded.

Video of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s floor speech is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s floor speech is available here for TV Stations.