In Speech On Senate Floor, Durbin Speaks In Support Of Lithuania's Defense Of Democracy, Calls Out Lukashenko As "Europe's Last Dictator"

WASHINGTON  U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), Co-Chair of the bipartisan Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus, took to the Senate floor today to express his support for Lithuania as the nation faces repeated threats of Russian aggression and Chinese economic intimidation. In his remarks, Durbin touched on Lithuania’s history of resilience and strong voice for democracy and called for a continuation of the long-standing U.S.-Baltic friendship.

“For half a century, millions lived under the tyranny and repression of the Soviet Union… But in the late 1980s, things began to change, with countries such as Lithuania leading the way to freedom.  Today, as a vibrant and vital member of the European Union and NATO, this small but brave nation is standing firm against renewed Russian aggression and now Chinese economic intimidation and defending heroic efforts to end tyranny in Belarus,” said Durbin.

Durbin spoke about his trip to Rukla, Lithuania, in 2017, where U.S. and German forces were stationed as part of U.S. security cooperation programs tasked with keeping the Baltics safe from Russian aggression.  Durbin pointed to language that he championed as an amendment within the recently-passed NDAA that reaffirms the U.S. commitment to Baltic security and went on to applaud Lithuania’s efforts to stand up to China despite the nation punishing Lithuania for its decision to strengthen trade ties with Taiwan.

“So let’s use this 30th anniversary of Lithuania independence to stand firm with our brave ally and recommit to our continued support for our Baltic allies through economic and security cooperation. Doing so will help ensure the next thirty years of the long-standing U.S.-Baltic friendship are equally strong and fruitful,” said Durbin.

Durbin also called out Belarus’ current government as the “last dictatorship of Europe” due to strongman Alexander Lukashenko’s continued jailing of opposition candidates.  Durbin told the story of opposition leader Sergei Tikhanovsky, who found himself arbitrarily jailed for having the courage to run in an election against Lukashenko.  Tikhanovsky’s wife, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, ran in his place and galvanized citizens with her calls to action against Lukashenko only to lose to Lukashenko in a sham election.  She continues her efforts to bring a better more open future for the Belarussian people from exile in Lithuania. 

“Tragically, since Lukashenko stole the most recent election, he has continued to double down on his outrageous behavior, including forcing down a commercial airline in May to arrest the Belarusian activist. And just this week, after months of closed hearings, that 18-year prison sentence for her husband [Sergei Tikhanovsky]…What a waste, what an outright theft of the Belarusian people’s future,” said Durbin.

“These people must be freed and we must continue to support Ms. Tikhanovskaya’s effort, and her husband, and the thousands upon thousands who have peacefully protested on their behalf,” Durbin concluded.

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.