Senator John Hoeven (R-N.D.) today said the West's response to Russian aggression has to be strategic, comprehensive and united. Working with the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Hoeven said we need to impose sanctions, reinvigorate our defensive alliance and make sure we stand together to maintain peace and stability in the region.
Hoeven and Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) met with high-level European and NATO allies last week to help build a long-term energy plan that will help reduce Ukraine's and the region's dependence on Russian natural gas.
Hoeven and the U.S. delegation met with senior officials in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania. All three Baltic nations are relatively new members of NATO, joining in 2004. The senators also visited Moldova to express support for the former Soviet republic's efforts to join the EU. They also discussed the need for energy security with Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca.
The economic progress the Baltic states have experienced since their liberation from Soviet rule is tied to their membership in NATO and their market-oriented economic reforms. NATO benefits by having strategic partners on the periphery of Russia to check its territorial ambitions.
Hoeven said it is critical to the stability of the region for the Baltic states to break Russia's energy leverage over them. Only 10 percent of Estonia's energy needs are met by Russian natural gas, but Latvia and Lithuania rely on Russia for nearly all of their energy. All three countries are taking steps to break Russia's leverage over them.
Lithuania, for example, is building an LNG import facility offshore and they are asking when they can receive U.S. exports. The senator said they are doing everything they can, and the United States must help them to both stabilize the region and to take advantage new markets for American LNG.
Two weeks ago, Hoeven, along with Barrasso and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), introduced the Energy Security Act, legislation that would expedite applications to export U.S. LNG. The senator said there are about 23 LNG export licenses pending, some of which have been awaiting approval for up to two years. Approving applications for LNG export can be good for our allies, good for the environment by capturing more flared gas, and good for the American economy by creating jobs and economic activity.
"Our allies need and very much want US LNG and there is no better time for the US to approve the permits to start building LNG terminals that will signal our allies that they can get relief from dependency on Russian gas," Hoeven said.
To help reinforce U.S. ties to the Baltic states, over the course of the week, the Senate delegation met with high ranking officials from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. They met with Latvian President Andris B?rzi? and reaffirmed the importance of the relationship between the U.S., Latvian and the other Baltic states. All are an important U.S. partner, and the senators and B?rzi? committed to building even stronger ties in the future to preserve the peace, strength and unity of Europe.
The group also met with troops, including U.S. Marines and Air Force men and women who were conducting joint military operations with Latvian and Estonian forces.