Durbin, Grassley Introduce Legislation To Strengthen Security And Economic Cooperation With The Baltics Amid Russian Aggression
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Co-Chairs of the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus, introduced the Baltic Defense and Deterrence Act, bipartisan and bicameral legislation to effectively codify the Baltic Security Initiative effort and create a complementary initiative at the U.S. Department of State. Jointly, these two efforts will enhance and strengthen U.S. security and economic cooperation with the Baltics amid Russia’s continued aggression toward the Baltics and heightened tensions with China.
The Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes a provision led by Durbin that supports the Baltic Security Initiative and the FY 2022 Omnibus included a $180 million appropriation for the Baltic Security Initiative. Durbin spoke in support of the bill on the Senate floor today.
“Not only do I have strong personal ties to the region, but the Baltic countries are essential NATO partners in upholding democratic values abroad,” said Durbin. “Our bill deters Russia from extending Putin’s war into NATO territory, strengthens our partnerships with the Baltics, and enhances their capabilities as critical allies on NATO’s eastern flank. I remain steadfast in my support for the Baltic States as they work to combat Russian aggression as well as Chinese economic pressure.”
“The three Baltic countries have been model NATO allies, contributing above two percent of GDP on defense, fighting alongside American soldiers in various missions and providing invaluable expertise in cyber defense, strategic communications and energy security. The Baltics have been warning about the nature of the Putin regime for years and were among the first to provide critical lethal military aid to Ukraine. It is past time to close strategic gaps in NATO’s most exposed flank. Ukraine’s experience shows that Vladimir Putin does not respond to warnings or signals, so deterrence requires a robust defensive military capability in place,” Grassley said.
“With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin has shown his blatant disregard for democracy,” said Gallego. “That is why it is more important than ever to shore up a strong level of support for our Baltic allies in Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. The $180 million secured for the Baltic Security Initiative in this year’s omnibus spending bill is a tangible example of U.S. support, and the Baltic Defense and Deterrence Act is a meaningful next step demonstrating our continued and steadfast commitment to our Baltic allies.”
“The tragic events of the last month have taught us once again that freedom must be defended from tyranny. We are now watching in real-time the incalculable human cost when deterrence fails,” said Bacon. “The geography and history of the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have made them a tempting target for Putin’s aggression since the end of the Cold War. This legislation builds on the foundation of enhanced security in the Baltics that Congress has worked to establish over the last several years. Freedom must be preserved, and the Baltic Defense and Deterrence Act demonstrates America’s commitment to our most vulnerable allies.”
More than 3.8 million Ukrainians have fled their country since February 24. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution cosponsored by Durbin condemning Russian President Vladimir Putin as a war criminal. The Senate also passed the Fiscal Year 2022 Omnibus appropriations bill. The $1.5 trillion package provides $13.6 billion in humanitarian, military, and economic support for Ukraine. Within that amount, $6 billion is provided in State and USAID humanitarian assistance; $100 million in US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food for Peace aid for Ukraine; $6.5 billion in Defense spending; and $19 million for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to support targeted sanctions measures. Last week, the Biden Administration announced another $1 billion in new funding towards humanitarian assistance for those affected by Putin’s war in Ukraine, along with plans to welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainians and others fleeing Russia’s aggression through a full range of legal immigration pathways, including the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program.
Along with Durbin and Grassley, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Angus King (I-ME), Roy Blunt (R-MO), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Rick Scott (R-FL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH). U.S. Representatives Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Don Bacon (R-NE) introduced the legislation in the House.
U.S. Representatives Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) and Don Bacon (R-NE), Co-Chairs of the House Baltic Caucus, introduced the legislation in the House.
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