Washington D.C. – Congressman Eliot Engel, the senior Democratic Member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sent a letter to Secretary Kerry urging the State Department to speak out strongly against Russian strong arm tactics aimed at its neighbors seeking closer ties to Europe.
“I am calling on the State Department to speak out strongly against recent attempts by Russia to prevent Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia, and others from strengthening their economic and political ties with Europe. Russia’s campaign of intimidation and pressure blatantly violates the fundamental sovereignty and independence of these countries. Each nation has the right to form its own partnerships, in keeping with its interests and values. I join members of the European Parliament, who passed a resolution to this effect last week, in deploring recent Russian actions, and I urge Secretary Kerry to continue to support the aspirations of the peoples of the region to build strong and prosperous democracies within Europe.”
September 18, 2013
The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Mr. Secretary:
I am writing to you to express my deep concern regarding recent attempts by Russia to deter Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Armenia from deepening their economic and political ties with Europe.
In recent weeks, the Russian government has exerted intense pressure on these states to decline to sign or initial Association Agreements with the European Union (EU) at the EU’s upcoming “Eastern Partnership Summit,” which will be held in November in Vilnius, Lithuania. Russia is insisting that Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia, and other former Soviet states instead join a Moscow-sponsored customs union, which currently consists of Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. The EU has determined that membership in this customs union is incompatible with the free trade pacts that are part of the EU’s Association Agreements.
In August, Russia imposed restrictions for several days on imports from Ukraine, some of which have remained in place. Russian officials also warned that Ukraine will be subject to unspecified but ominous “defensive measures” from Russia should it move closer to the EU. At the beginning of September, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister visited Moldova and threatened that Moscow would cut off gas supplies this winter and would impede progress towards the settlement of the frozen conflict in the separatist region of Transnistria should the Moldovan government proceed in its EU integration efforts. And last week, Russia banned the import of all Moldovan wine, a major revenue source for that country. The Russians have cited food safety concerns, but all objective observers believe that the move was politically motivated and directed to stop Moldova’s laudable progress in developing closer relations with the EU.
Armenia also has come under strong Russian pressure. In fact, Armenia’s president unexpectedly announced during a recent visit to Moscow that Armenia would join Russia’s trade pact – a step which could complicate the path to a European future for Armenia’s people.
Mr. Secretary, Russia’s campaign of intimidation blatantly infringes on the fundamental sovereignty and independence of the former Soviet states. I firmly reject Russia’s neo-imperialist assertion that these countries belong in Moscow’s exclusive sphere of influence. Of course, these nations should enjoy close and constructive relations with all their neighbors, including Russia. But they also have the right to form their own partnerships, in keeping with their interests and values. I join members of the European Parliament, who passed a resolution last week, in deploring recent Russian actions. Attempts to constrain these nations’ choices are unacceptable. They must not be allowed to pass without comment and condemnation.
I therefore urge you to speak out strongly against this Russian pressure and in defense of our friends in the region. We must ensure that the United States continues to support the aspirations of the peoples of Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, and Armenia, as well as others across the region, to build strong and prosperous democracies within Europe. Furthermore, I believe that it is imperative that we continue to support, both with words and resources, these countries’ reform efforts, including to meet the conditions necessary for closer economic and political relations with the EU.
ELIOT L. ENGEL
Link to letter from Rep. Engel to Sec. Kerry