Durbin in Vilnius: Russia is a threat, but there’s no need to slam doors on it

Democratic Senator Richard Durbin
DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

“I am not going to slam the doors and say we won’t even talk to them, but I am also not naïve. I know what (Russian President Vladimir) Putin did in Ukraine, I know what he did in Georgia, I know what he is capable of doing in the Baltics. He is a threat of sovereignty and security of these nations,” Durbin told reporters after meeting with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

Republican US President Donald Trump has said earlier that he wants warmer relations with Moscow and has called NATO obsolete, stoking worries in Europe about America’s commitments to the Alliance.

NATO’s leaders last year also decided to resume dialog with Russia in an effort to increase mutual transparency in organizing military exercises and prevent the risk of incidents between forces.

Relations between the West and Moscow soured in the wake of Russia’s intervention in Ukraine in 2014, which prompted both the US and the EU to impose sanctions against Russia.

Several US administration officials came to Europe last week to reassure allies about America’s commitments to NATO. Defence Secretary James Mattis and Vice-President Mike Pence reaffirmed these commitments in Brussels and Munich.

Senator Durbin said, however, that “it is difficult to reconcile official statements of the administration with our president’s tweets”.

“It is very difficult to understand what is going on in the US 33 days under this new presidency,” he said.

According to the Democratic politician, most administration officials and members of the Congress support NATO and do not see it as obsolete, unlike Trump.

However, Durbin agrees that Europeans must step up their defense spending.

“I can tell you from my conversation with the president of Lithuania – she takes it very seriously and they (Lithuania) are moving beyond 2 percent (of GDP for defense spending),” he said in Vilnius.

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