U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation and a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Senate Majority Whip and Chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, released the following statements announcing their travel to Georgia and Romania following their participation in the 2023 Munich Security Forum.
According to US Embassy’s statement, during their visit, Shaheen and Durbin will meet with heads of state, members of legislature and representatives from civil society to discuss the nations’ bilateral relationships, as well as the geopolitical importance of the Black Sea region.
“The Black Sea is a pivotal geopolitical region for European security, particularly amid Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin is already working to spread his malign influence in the area and we know his hegemonic aspirations go beyond taking Ukraine. It is critical that the U.S. actively engage with our Black Sea partners and establish a more robust policy toward the region. That is precisely what I’m looking to discuss over the next several days,” said Shaheen. “Georgia has important elections coming up and the opportunity to advance a pro-democratic agenda, which is what I’ll encourage our partners to prioritize as they work to build a better future for the Georgian people and to bring more stability to the region. I also look forward to meeting with our allies in Romania, a key NATO member that has played a significant role on the frontlines of the war in Ukraine, facilitating the flow of Western equipment to aid the fight against Putin and assisting refugees fleeing the violence. There is much to discuss and I appreciate the opportunity to engage with our partners and allies in person.”
“Having suffered a brazen Russian military seizure of its land in 2008, Georgia knows Putin’s threat all too well,” said Durbin. “It’s early break from the Soviet Union heralded great promise for a future squarely in the transatlantic community of democracies – a vision which has yet to be fully realized and which I hope to further encourage on this return visit. Romania has also seen up close the consequences of Putin’s military crimes in neighboring Ukraine and stood resolutely as a key member of NATO and the EU. I look forward to discussing this important effort and visit with NATO troops while there.”
Senator Shaheen leads bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Senate that would establish a U.S. policy toward the Black Sea region. Shaheen has been very engaged on U.S. policy toward the Black Sea region for years, stemming back to her participation as an election monitor in Georgia with Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) in 2012. She’s been vocal in the U.S. Senate about the urgency of prioritizing the region, which is a crucial inflection point amid Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked further invasion of Ukraine. Shortly before Putin’s invasion, Shaheen and Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) led a bipartisan delegation to Ukraine, where they met with President Zelenskyy and members of his administration. Before the Shaheen-Portman congressional delegation visit in January, Shaheen led a bipartisan group of lawmakers to Eastern Europe, including Georgia and Ukraine , in June 2021. As co-chair of the Senate NATO Observer Group, which she re-started with Senator Tillis in 2018, Shaheen has led bipartisan efforts in the Senate in support of the transatlantic Alliance and as Finland and Sweden seek accession into NATO.
Durbin, Co-Chair of the Senate Baltic Freedom Caucus, previously traveled to Warsaw, Poland, and Vilnius, Lithuania, right before Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. In 2022, Durbin traveled to Vilnius, Lithuania, where he received the Aleksandras Stulginskis Star Award, and following that, he attended the NATO summit in Madrid, Spain. He frequently hosts members of the Ukrainian Parliament, and most recently hosted Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin to receive an update on reports of Russian war crimes and crimes against humanity. Durbin’s bipartisan, bicameral Justice for Victims of War Crimes Act — which updates the current war crimes statute to enable prosecution of war criminals in the United States regardless of the nationality of the perpetrator or victim — was recently signed into law by President Biden. The bill also extends the statute of limitations for certain war crimes. Durbin-authored legislation restricting U.S. recognition of any Russian forcibly annexed areas of Ukraine also passed as part of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.