Durbin Reflects On Recent Nato Summit In Lithuania

In a speech on the Senate floor, Durbin reiterates the NATO alliance is stronger than ever amid Putin’s unprovoked war; calls on Belarusian Dictator Lukashenko to release Radio Free Europe journalists Andrey Kuznechyk and Ihar Losik

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 Vilnius, Lithuania.  In addition to Durbin, Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Angus King (I-ME), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), and Pete Ricketts (R-NE) attended the summit, where they discussed congressional support for the transatlantic relationship, as well as continued Russian aggression in the region and efforts to undermine allied security and democracy.  During his speech, Durbin praised Lithuania for its notable leadership in the NATO alliance and steadfast commitment to democracy.  He also highlighted the strong NATO alliance amid Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine.

Durbin said, “It was remarkable that the summit was hosted in Lithuania because of that country’s extraordinary journey from Soviet tyranny to a thriving democratic voice.  Knowing Putin’s tyranny all too well, Lithuania has been an outspoken supporter of Ukraine, as well as exiled democratic voices from Belarus and Russia.  And it has stood firm against Chinese economic bullying resulting from growing trade with Taiwan.” 

During his speech, Durbin praised President Biden for rallying our NATO allies.  He also praised Senators Shaheen and Tillis as leaders of the Senate NATO Observer Group for their leadership on this issue.

Durbin said, “We must never forget that NATO was formed from the ashes of two horrific wars in Europe, with many newer members eventually joining after decades of Soviet oppression.  And despite Putin’s warped paranoia to the contrary, NATO is not a threat to Russia.  But it will defend every inch of its members’ territory from Russia or any other such attack.  And the alliance is still growing, with this Summit’s newest member, Finland, and it now appears Sweden on the way… And, much to his [Putin’s] disappointment, his senseless invasion [of Ukraine] in fact strengthened and expanded NATO, including along hundreds of miles of the Russian border.” 

During his speech, Durbin highlighted the key outcomes from the summit—including security guarantees to Ukraine and an easier pathway for Ukraine to ultimately join NATO. 

Durbin continued, “I believe Ukraine’s future rests ultimately within NATO and until then, the United States and our allies must continue to support its defense against Russia.  I think Lithuanian President Nauseda argued this well—that Europeans understand that Ukraine’s fight is their fight.  That also is my feeling and that of most here in the Senate—that Ukraine’s fight for democracy and sovereignty is our fight too.” 

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 Lukashenko. Durbin met with her while in Lithuania.  During his speech, Durbin also called for the release of two Belarusian journalists, Andrey Kuznechyk and Ihar Losik, who work for Radio Free Europe.  They were jailed by Lukashenko for simply being reporters.   

Durbin concluded, “I want to close with a message to President Putin from the summit: the NATO alliance is stronger than ever.  And we are united in our determination to stop your ruthless invasion of Ukraine.”   

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.