Washington, D.C. – On the opening day of the NATO Summit, the House of Representatives today passed H. Res. 256, which expresses support for the countries of Eastern Europe and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Chairman Royce submitted the following remarks for the record:

“Mr. Speaker, as leaders gather at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Summit this week, it is important that we send a strong message of support and commitment for transatlantic security.

For more than six decades, the NATO alliance has promoted peace, freedom, and prosperity in Europe and the United States. Its continued strength is vital to America’s national interests.

Mr. Speaker, I’ve just returned from an important trip to the Nordic and Baltic regions, where I met with partners who are facing increasing pressure from Russia.

Russia’s naval vessels in the Baltic Sea are ratcheting up their aggression. Russian jets frequently violate Baltic airspace. Recently, Russia conducted its largest land based military exercises to date along the border with our Baltic allies, the ‘ZAPAD’ exercises.

General Pavel, Head of NATO’s Military Committee, stated that the ZAPAD exercises appeared to be a ‘serious preparation for big war,’ and raised concerns that Russia’s lack of communication with NATO forces nearby greatly increased the possibility that human or technological error could cause skirmishes and lead to a full-scale conflict.

After announcing its intention to increase collaboration and military exercises with U.S. Marines, Norway was directly threatened by Russian leaders that it would suffer ‘consequences’ for that decision.

And our allies in the region that are not formal members of NATO, Finland and Sweden, are also feeling the pressure.

In fact, last year Sweden discovered that Russia had covertly stationed a submarine just off the coast of Stockholm.

Russia has combined its traditional military with asymmetric hostile actions, including by leveraging energy supplies for political influence as well as increasing the frequency and scope of propaganda among minority populations to destabilize and weaken Eastern and Central European countries.

House Resolution 256, authored by Congressman Steve Cohen of Tennessee, sends a strong message of support to our allies in the region that are confronted by this increasing pressure from Russia. 

Specifically, it condemns any threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of NATO allies and pledges that the U.S. will continue to maintain strong leadership and its commitments to the alliance.

It condemns Russia’s ongoing illegal occupation of Crimea and supports maintaining related U.S. sanctions on Russia until Ukraine’s sovereignty over that region is restored.

House Resolution 256 also calls for keeping related strong sanctions on Russia for its illegal and aggressive actions in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, and for the full implementation of the Minsk agreements which, among other things, calls for the full removal of Russian military equipment, as well as illegal armed groups, fighters and mercenaries from Ukrainian territory.

This resolution also supports the U.S. European Deterrence Initiative program of military support to our Eastern European and Baltic allies, and calls on our European allies to make the promised investments in their individual, regional and collective defenses in accordance to the NATO guidelines for membership.

Finally, this measure acknowledges the valuable contributions by Central and Eastern European allies to NATO’s collective security and peace operations around the globe, such as ongoing operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo.

This is an important message to send to our allies at a critical moment in history.”