Durbin Reflects On Recent NATO Summit Amid Putin's War

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin applauds Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession; highlights tireless work of Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya; and calls on appointment of new Special Envoy to Belarus

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, reflected on his recent trip to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Madrid. Durbin joined Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Thom Tillis (R-NC),  Deb Fischer (R-NE), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) at the summit to discuss congressional support for the transatlantic relationship, as well as continued Russian aggression and interference in western democracies. During his speech, Durbin emphasized the strong NATO alliance amid Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine.

Durbin said, “I think Senator Tillis said it best.  Despite policy differences within our group, there was no daylight between us: we agree that Sweden and Finland should be welcomed into NATO; and the attack on Ukraine by Vladimir Putin should not be ignored… But perhaps what was most notable was the overwhelming sense of unity and defense of common values found among our NATO allies in the face of Russian aggression.”

During his speech, Durbin praised President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, and Secretary of Defense Austin in rallying our NATO allies.

“I've been traveling to eastern Europe and meeting allies for many years, I never felt such a shared sense of purpose and determination to stop the Russian threat,” Durbin continued, “As Senator Tillis noted on Tuesday, our safety at home is inextricably linked to the security of Europe. Our bipartisan delegation understood this. The leaders at the NATO summit understood it and President Biden certainly understands it. Vladimir Putin would serve his people well by understanding it as well." 

During his speech, Durbin also praised Sweden and Finland’s forthcoming NATO accession. Before arriving at the NATO summit, Durbin joined his colleagues in Sweden.

Durbin said, “For nearly 200 years [Sweden] tried to maintain a semblance of nonalignment. That changed swiftly with Vladimir Putin’s aggression. It triggered an overwhelming Swedish support to join NATO and Sweden began to help Ukraine, something they have not done since 1939. They recognize Russia's aggression as the same seen in Europe in World War II. They know that the collective NATO security arrangement is critical to stop Russia. I agree with them and look forward to their NATO membership.”

As Co-Chair of the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus, Durbin also visited Vilnius, Lithuania while he was overseas. Durbin received the Aleksandras Stulginskis Star Award—only the second individual and first American to receive this award.  It was granted to Durbin for his decades-long support of Lithuanian independence and democracy and his promotion of parliamentary values. While in Lithuania, Durbin spent time with Valdas Adamkus—a highly successful Lithuanian immigrant to Chicago who returned to run for president of Lithuania soon after it regained its independence from the Soviet Union. Adamkus received the Aleksandras Stulginskis Star Award earlier this year.

Durbin also praised the tireless work of Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who lives in Lithuania after having to flee with her family from Belarus’ President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. Durbin met with her while in Lithuania, and yesterday, Durbin, Tillis, and Shaheen introduced a bipartisan resolution recognizing the anniversary of the stolen 2020 Belarus presidential election, the historic peaceful protests, and the continued heroic efforts of the Belarusian people. President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has ruled as an undemocratic dictator since the first presidential election in Belarus in 1994.

“Thousands upon thousands of Belarusians protested that stolen election, with more than 1,200 jailed as a result of it. Lukashenko is now repaying Putin by using Belarus as a staging ground to attack and bill Ukrainians. Many brave Belarusians still exist, sabotaging Russian supply lines. They understand the fate of Ukraine is tied to their own fate and that Putin must not prevail. Their fight for freedom cannot be forgotten. And I urge the Administration to continue its support for the effort by appointing a new Special Envoy,” said Durbin.

Durbin concluded, “Let me thank the many fine members of the state department foreign service who worked tirelessly to represent our diplomatic interest overseas. They, along with our military service members, serving around the world, are national treasures.”

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.