Russia’s neighbours ask for US help
The 113th Battalion from the Georgian army attack South Ossetian troops. Source: Wikimedia
The foreign minister of Ukraine and ambassadors to the US from Poland, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia addressed the Senate appropriations subcommittee on Moscow’s activity in their countries.
“Until Russia gets off Ukrainian land, there should be no easing up of sanctions. If anything, they should be increased,” said Ukrainian Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin.
Moscow posed a threat “to the whole western world, the transatlantic alliance”, Klimkin told the Senate subcommittee. “The cyber war is going on every day, all the time, and it’s a threat to everyone because it doesn’t matter how far you are from the Kremlin, you can be 500 miles or 5,000 miles … Everyone is vulnerable.”
Estonian ambassador Eerik Marmei added that the US and others should not “be guided by wishful thinking” about Russia and should watch for its attempts to disrupt this year’s elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany.
The envoys spoke about efforts to reduce their dependence on Russian natural gas.
“We really think about diversification,” said Piotr Wilczek, Poland’s ambassador.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who chairs the subcommittee overseeing the State Department and foreign aid, called the hearing amid fears that Donald Trump might not stand up to Moscow.
Graham said continued aid to Russia’s neighbours was important to US security.
“The safer you are, the safer we will be,” Graham told the subcommittee. Graham has been one of the most vocal congressional critics of Donald Trump’s pro-Russian statements.
Several members of the subcommittee asked which type of assistance was required and the diplomats said military equipment, including defensive weaponry.
The US and the rest of Nato in January began its largest military reinforcement of Europe in decades, when 2,700 troops arrived in Poland. The region requested US and Nato troops after Moscow’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula in 2014.
The diplomats described Russia’s behaviour as “hybrid warfare”, combining cyber attacks and propaganda with the threat or use of force. Georgia’s ambassador, David Bakradze, described Russian broadcasts that discouraged Georgians from supporting the efforts to join Nato.
Moscow backed two border regions in the 2008 war with Georgia and 20 per cent of Georgian territory remains under the control of pro-Russian separatists.