Senator Rob Portman urges President Biden to toughen up with Russia after visit to Eastern Europe
WASHINGTON, DC – US Senator Rob Portman on Monday urged US President Joe Biden to deliver a “strong message” to Russian President Vladimir Putin when they meet next week in Geneva: The United States stands with the peoples of the countries Eastern Europe and oppose efforts to dominate them through tactics that include military attacks on their territories, disinformation and cyber attacks.
Portman and two fellow Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee visited Ukraine, Lithuania and Georgia last week, and also met Belarusian opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya to discuss human rights violations committed by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, such as the forced landing of commercial airliner to arrest dissident journalist Roman Protasevich. He said he expects Tsikhanoskaya to attend a Wednesday hearing by the committee on Belarus.
“It’s a continuation of that effort to try to make sure that these countries know they have a friend, and that the United States will continue to stand by their side to say they can get out of it. influence from Russia, âPortman said in an interview about His trip.
Portman said the three countries he visited with Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire and Chris Murphy of Connecticut all face “immense pressure from Russia” as they have become powerful allies of the United States over the years. decades. And he noted that they also have strong ties to northeastern Ohio, where immigrants from those countries have settled. He said he plans to travel to Cleveland in three weeks to inform communities of nationalities of his visit.
âUkrainian Americans, Lithuanians, Georgian Americans and others, all, whether Polish or Serbian, or whatever their background, all share the same passion for helping those seeking freedom,â said Portman.
Portman said he is disappointed in the Biden administration’s decision to lift congressional sanctions against the builders of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, arguing the move is against US national interests, helping Russia while hurting Ukraine and other allies Americans in Europe.
He said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told senators “that he was very convinced that this was a mistake, because it makes Europe dependent on Russia”. Completion of the new pipeline could deprive Ukraine of about $ 3 billion in annual revenue from an existing pipeline that crosses its borders, he said. The fact that a Russian pipeline crosses Ukraine also helps protect Ukraine from Russian aggression, Portman argues, because Russia does not want to attack its own pipeline.
“It’s also a sign that the administration is not as focused as it should be on Ukraine during a critical time,” Portman said.
Portman said Russia had just sent 110,000 troops to the Ukraine border region, its biggest escalation since the 2014 war, and that the Russians are also stepping up their presence in two provinces of Georgia it has occupied. illegally. He said he and his colleagues were the first members of Congress to visit Georgia in several years, with overseas visits hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.
âRussia continues to be aggressive and, and these countries are asking America and the European Union for help,â Portman said. “They want to follow our model of democracy, freedom and free market … It was important to show the flag, to let people know that we support them in each of these countries, to push hard for reforms, further reforms to their economy, further reforms to their government systems.
Portman has said he would like Georgia and Ukraine to be admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and said he supports the actions of the administration of former President Donald Trump to give Ukraine defensive weapons and reject Russian claims on the territories it has occupied. He said he hopes Biden doesn’t change the Trump administration’s policies on these fronts.
Portman has said he supports Biden’s decision to meet with Putin on June 16.
âI think the meeting is an opportunity for President Biden to speak out forcefully and forcefully against the Russian activity that I have seen, the aggressive behavior that is apparent in these four countries: Belarus, Lithuania, the ‘Ukraine and Georgia,’ Portman said.
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