USA Today has published an article by US Senator Jeanne Shaheen ahead of the meeting between US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin. The article touches upon Russia’s expanding influence in Belarus, Ukraine, and South Caucasian region. Noting that Belarusian “dictator” Alexander Lukashenko is strongly supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Shaheen states that “Putin’s ambition to unite Belarus and Russia into a single state and expand his authoritarian reach cannot be ignored.”
We need to seriously consider NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia, says US Senator Jeanne Shaheen
By Khatia Bzhalava
Thursday, June 17
According to the senator, Russia’s first steps to undermine democracy in Eastern Europe started with the Republic of Georgia. Shaheen states that while she was visiting Georgia, she arrived at the “administrative boundary line” that separates 20% of Russian-occupied Georgian territories from the rest of Georgia.
“Here, Russian forces try to intimidate Georgians by occasionally moving the fence marking the line and hindering movement of Georgian citizens across the line, preventing access to essential services,” stresses the US senator, adding that Russia also hinders the activities of the European Union’s monitoring mission, and engages in disinformation campaigns against Georgia’s democracy.
Shaheen is also concerned over Russia’s increased activity in the Black Sea and does not rule out that Russia might take action against Ukraine this fall.
The senator suggests steps that should be undertaken to stop Russian oppression. She emphasizes the need to consider NATO membership for Ukraine and Georgia.
“Both want to join, which would be devastating for Putin’s plans. Since its inception, NATO has been open to countries who make the sovereign decision to join and approved unanimously, and it should not be any different now. Reforms are required to ensure the alliance would be gaining strong allies, but failure to act would deliver a victory for Putin,” reads US senator’s article.
The senator also suggests stopping the construction of Nord Stream 2, which is a pipeline running from Russia to Europe across the Baltic Sea. This project would allow Russia to stop the transit of gas through Ukraine, and since being Russia’s gatekeeper to the European gas market is crucial geopolitical leverage to Ukraine, ending gas transit will seriously affect the country. Many believe that Putin is deliberately trying to weaken Ukraine by depriving the country of substantial revenues to assure its own strategic advantage.
Shaheen believes that the US needs to strengthen its military as well as a diplomatic presence in the region. “Promoting business and investment ties with Ukraine and Georgia would benefit both our countries, as well,” she stressed.