08.25.16

Sens. Peters & Coons Visit Europe & Morocco to Discuss Combatting Russian Aggression & Middle East Terrorism

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Gary Peters (MI) and Chris Coons (DE), a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, today announced that he traveled to North Africa and Europe last week, where he met with allies in the region to discuss a number of national security issues, including the threat from Russian aggression, terrorism in the Middle East and the importance of U.S. partnerships with European and North African allies. Peters and Coons were part of a bipartisan, bicameral congressional delegation met with heads of state, ambassadors, members of parliament, military, civic and business leaders and other top officials in Morocco, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Estonia and Iceland. In addition to trade and commerce, topics of discussion included America’s commitment to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and contributions of Arab allies in countering terrorism.

“As a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, I am always focused on protecting the security and safety of Americans at home and abroad. Many regions of the world are gripped with chaos and violence, and it is highly concerning that Russia is sowing more instability and uncertainty. As Vladimir Putin seeks to expand Russia’s territory and influence and divide our allies, it is critical that the U.S. maintain our commitment to NATO to protect American interests and security,” said Senator Peters, a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy Reserve. “Recent political rhetoric in the presidential election has caused some of our allies to question America’s commitment to our shared goals of peace and prosperity. I was pleased to join Senator Coons and our colleagues in affirming the United States’ willingness to work with both our Arab Muslim partners working to counter terrorism and our European allies facing an increasingly assertive Russia.”

“At a time when many of our allies are threatened by aggressive behavior from Russia and concerned about divisive rhetoric here in the United States, our congressional delegation made it clear that America will continue stand by our partners and our commitments,” said Senator Coons, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee. “For decades, the United States and our allies have stood for freedom, stability, and the rule of law. That’s why the world looks to us for leadership fighting terrorism, rallying the international community, and standing up for democratic principles. In America, these values have long transcended partisan politics. That’s why it was so important to have a bipartisan delegation traveling to hear directly from the civil, military, and government leaders in the five countries we visited. I thank Senator Peters and our colleagues for joining me on this important trip.”

 

The Senators participated in meetings in Morocco with members of parliament and the American Chamber of Commerce to learn about the country’s efforts to prevent radicalization of young people - particularly young men traveling to Syria and Iraq to join ISIS - with increased economic and job opportunities. In meetings with the defense ministry, the delegation discussed Morocco’s military partnership with the United States and their work to counter terrorism and maintain stability in North Africa and the Arab world.

 

In the Czech Republic, which is a member of both NATO and the European Union (EU), Peters and Coons met with Deputy Prime Minister Andrej Babis and talked about ways our countries could work together to fight ISIS and handle the influx of migrants to Europe. They also received a briefing from United States European Command (EUCOM) on America’s military presence in Europe and the Baltics, as well as an update on America’s National Guard State Partnership Program in Europe. Michigan’s National Guard has a partnership with Latvia’s military, participating in joint training and exercises for over 20 years.

 

The delegation also visited Ukraine, which is a main target of illegal Russian aggression with the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and continued Russian-induced violence in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine. There, Peters and Coons learned more about Ukrainian leaders’ battle to both fight off Russian separatists and rid their government and civil institutions of rampant corruption. The delegation met with a number of civic, business and military leaders, including Ukraine’s National Guard, Patrol Police and Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin.

 

In Estonia -  a dependable NATO and EU ally that shares a border with Russia - the group met with President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Foreign Affairs Minister Kaljurand and members of the Estonian Parliament and heard about their commitment to protecting their European alliances against Russian influence and the importance of maintaining economic sanctions against Vladimir Putin and top Russian officials as long as they continue their illegal presence in Ukraine.

 

Peters and Coons ended the trip in Iceland, which has seen a recent increase in Russian submarine patrols. There, they met with Prime Minister Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, Foreign Affairs Minister Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, members of Iceland’s parliament and U.S. Navy personnel, who are helping detect Russian submarines. The Senators were able to learn more about the U.S. military’s plans to utilize a former American air base, Naval Air Station Keflavik.