Four distinguished guests – John McCain, John Barrasso, John Hoeven and Ron Johnson, the U.S. Senators participated at the event „Free and united Europe: Challenges and Opportunities" held at Vilnius University, sponsored by the Ronald Reagan House.
Vision: united, free and peaceful Europe
J. McCain expressed his great enthusiasm for the possibility to come back to the same outstanding Hall of the Vilnius University, which was visited by the senator in May 2012.
The four U.S Senators came to Vilnius after the visits to Norway, Estonia and Latvia heading to Moldova afterwards. The Senators visited the Baltic countries in order to consult with the allies about the possible respond to Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea, its ongoing military intervention in eastern Ukraine, and its other efforts to pressure its neighbours, including the Baltic region.
The Senator J. McCain pointed out, that „All of us had high hopes for our relationship with Russia after the Cold War. We provided billions of dollars of assistance to help Russia's transition from communism. NATO stated in the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act that it had 'no need, no intent, and no plans' to deploy any significant military capability onto the territory of new NATO allies in eastern and central Europe, even as we enlarged the alliance. All of these actions reflected the U.S. and European desire to build a constructive and cooperative relationship with Russia.
Unfortunately, it should now be clear to all of us that Russia under President Putin has taken a very dark turn, and our highest hopes for our relationship with Russia have not borne out".
Commitment to the obligations
„This demands more from all of us. It means that all of us in NATO should re-commit ourselves to the alliance's core missions of deterrence and collective defence. The United States is committed to our obligations to the collective defence of our NATO allies. No less important is to have the allied forces and capabilities present in this part of Europe, on a persistent basis, to deter aggression and demonstrate NATO's ability to meet our defensive commitments if called upon. That is what is needed now.
NATO must shift its force posture toward a more even distribution of our presence and capabilities across the alliance, including here in Lithuania and the other Baltic countries. But also the members of the alliance must do more for themselves and for the alliance – it is more important than ever for every NATO ally to spend at least 2 percent of its GDP on defence. I'm pleased that Lithuania has pledged and is planning to do this, and the sooner you follow through on that commitment the better", stated the Senator J. McCain.
Energy issues – political weapon of V. Putin
Senators J. Hoeven and J. Barrasso pointed out the importance of the energy independence: „At the same time, we and Lithuania's leaders agree that European countries need to increase their efforts to diversify their supply of energy, as Lithuania is taking the lead in doing". Senators J. Hoeven and J. Barrasso explained, the United States could be an important part of that solution in Lithuania and Europe.
R. Johnson expressed the concern that Putin's strength depends on the Russia's oil, as well as the weakness of Western countries. The senator noted: „We have to be strong. We have to act – politically, economically, and be prepared to take risks", summed up the U. S. Senator.