Sen. Dick Durbin is meeting with leaders in three eastern European countries to discuss recent Russian aggression and interference in democratic elections.
Durbin met with senior Polish officials Monday in Warsaw. He also is scheduled to meet this week with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman. Rep. Mike Quigley is slated to join Durbin for meetings with Ukrainian officials.
“Eastern Europe and the transatlantic alliance are at critical moments in their history,” Durbin said in a statement. “We must support our allies who face the brunt of Russian cyberattacks, propaganda, military intimidation, and even invasion in the case of Ukraine.”
Russia used military force to annex a portion of Ukrainian territory known as Crimea in 2014. In addition, the country has used cyber warfare to meddle in elections in a list of western countries, including the United States.
The U.S. intelligence community agreed in January that a Russian influence campaign, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, aimed to undermine the 2016 presidential election and aid President Donald Trump’s chances of winning. The Russian government has denied the findings
Durbin faulted Trump for defending Russia, claiming it emboldens Putin and “further threatens to destabilize these critical democratic nations in the region.” The senator is also using the trip to pledge congressional support for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization on "defense cooperation and sanction."
“The Baltic States, Poland, Ukraine, and others in the region have friends in Congress and around the world, and together we will continue to stand with them," Durbin said.
In an interview published last month by Germany’s Bild newspaper and the Times of London, Trump called NATO “obsolete” and said the EU is “basically a vehicle for Germany.” In addition, he lauded the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“I think Brexit is going to end up being a great thing,” he said.
Vice President Mike Pence told members of NATO and the EU Monday that Trump supports the international partnerships despite previous criticisms, according to NBC News. He also urged NATO members to increase defense spending, echoing Trump’s call.