Durbin and Quigley: We can't afford to dump NATO, cut the budget or lift Russian sanctions

Date: 
03/17/2017
DDurbin

Senator Dick Durbin

Dumping NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), budget cuts and lifting Russian sanctions are not the way to deal with Russian aggression nor be kept from being dragged into war explain Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Congressman Mike Quigley, 5th District, at the Ukrainian Cultural Center, 2247 W. Chicago Ave., Sunday, Mar. 12.

Having recently met with President Petro Poroshenko during a trip to Ukraine, Durbin and Quigley give first hand accounts of why the increased nationalistic and militaristic Russian agenda is of concern. Vladimir Putin's aggression goes beyond the Ukraine, which won independence in 1991, to other former Soviet Republics such as Lithuania, Estonia, Georgia, Belarus and Latvia. Poland too has concerns, they explain. 

MQuigley

Congressman Mike Quigley, 5th District

“Putin wants to restore the Soviet Union, he has said that and they are trying to do that,” says Quigley. "When I was in Georgia last year, there was a video of a woman feeding her cows through a fence. The Russians had moved the fence overnight. Russians have always exploited weakness or some crisis as an opportunity for exploitation." 

U.S. cyber surveillance showed that as the Russians were bringing their troops to their borders, they were including hospitals in preparation for war, says Durbin. "Putin wants the world to know that if he wants to, he can over-run the borders of the other countries. They have already taken over Crimea and fighting is still going on in Ukraine. People are dying. 

They warn that Putin likes to create disharmony and disunity in the west as he takes covert and overt actions. 

"One can wonder why the President of the U.S. has gotten so close to Putin and Russia," Quigley says.

"Trump's people even refer to Estonia as being a suburb of St. Petersburg. 

ColorGuard

Colors were presented prior to presentations, led by George Horbenko, Commander UAV Post 32

"It seems the front line of Putin's efforts is Ukraine. But the administrative talk here is to lift sanctions on Russia. Why would you do that with their economy struggling? 

"You use sanctions to gain leverage. Sanctions are working, their economy is faltering. Why would we give up leverage now by lifting sanctions? 

"Unity within NATO and unity, especially for countries most vulnerable, is vital." 

With Ravi Baichwal, ABC 7 News anchor as moderator, Durbin points out that  "Not that long ago when the Europeans were fighting each other, we were dragged into those wars and we don't want it to occur again. Since WWII we have stopped it with NATO." 

Neither Durbin or Quigley agree with President Trump's echoing Putin about NATO being obsolete and outdated. Though at today's news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Trump said that he "strongly supports" it and that "our NATO allies [need] to pay their fair share for the cost of defense." 

"Foreign aid is a lot cheaper than bullets and the State Department provides that aid," said Quigley on Sunday. But Thursday, the administration's proposed budget slashes State Department spending by  28.7%. 

Results of the mixed messages coming from the U.S. administration is reflected in a conversation Durbin had at a dinner in Warsaw*. The question: "If the U.S. will not take seriously Putin's invasion in your general election, how do we know that you will take it seriously when he invades us?" 

RBaichwal

Ravi Baichwal moderated the event

What keeps them up at night
Baichwal points out that 150 years ago Abraham Lincoln said that America would never be invaded or be taken over militarily. That the only way American democracy would die would be if we internally gave up on the fundamentals of being America. "What you are describing  regarding propaganda, cyber wars, sowing dissention in our broader American community appear to be going after  those core ideas. Is that what you feel?" 

"Cyber warfare goes on 24/7, we know that," Durbin says. "But we were not aware, until recently, that during the last campaign, the Russians hacked into the Illinois voter file. They had access to everyone's name, address and your basic information. 

"So vulnerability to cyber warfare is substantial. However, we have to fight to defend ourselves so they can't get to it from within. 

"When people reach the point of dismissing things because they don't want to hear it and label it as fake news. Then why turn on the news or read about anything? 

"That scares me almost more than anything else. We have to talk about it," says Durbin with resolve. 

Internal polarization is what Quigley sees as a major threat. "In this time of post truth, post science, post intelligence…a time when if you disagree with something, it has to be wrong or fake, it is going to be a lot more difficult to unify this country toward common goals. Folks are extended out on the extremes. 

"But we are going to have to deal with threats from Russia and keep our country together at the same time." 

Dimitro

Steve Dimitro, who organized the event, sits with the clergy

Is there good news?
In Ukraine there is a two percent up tick in economic growth, explains Durbin. In Kyiv there is reform. It is significant reform of the judiciary which was formerly corrupt. And, the people of Ukraine are feeling closer with the west. 

"Though it appears that neither Durbin or Quigley can do anything individually or in their individual committees, working together, along with Republican members in both houses, they may be able to get some issues covered," comments Ukrainian Village's George Matwyshyn. 

What are next steps
Concerning the issue of hacking, Durbin believes that there should be an independent, bipartisan committee. "Yes, it will it happen but not today. Leadership  in Congress does not support it.

Republicans want them to be dealt with in the Intelligence Committees (IC)." Durbin sits on the Senate's IC and Quigley sits on the House's. 

Intelligence committees meet behind closed doors and they both feel that the public needs to know more and that an independent commission could have more resources. More public awareness can make this happen sooner. 

"My committee can only do so much of value. We can look at classified material that can't be made public right now," says Quigley. "But an independent commission is independent, could do so much more. After 9 11 they could go after different things, accomplish different things with different assets." 

Durbin feels that not enough people know about a need for an investigation, but that is building. "Only 37% knew about the problem last week. But then the Attorney General recused himself from the investigation, now 55% know about it. I think that we should get a Republican, who is respected on both sides, to chair it. General Colin Powell or retired Supreme Court Judge Sandra Day O'Connor are people I trust and would be excellent candidates." 

"What is my best way to get my views on U.S. policy to the Republicans," queries  Baichwal from an audience card. 

"It is important to reach out to people on both sides of the aisle," explains Durbin. "I am friends with John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and we talk all the time. If you can reach out and meet with other elected officials personally and share your views, it can have an impact on their thinking and voting." 

"Elections matter, elections matter, elections matter..," says Quigley, who believes all Americans need some civics lessons. "We have to be focused, we have to be sharp and be aware of what is going on.

"Talk to your elected officials. If your senator and congressman agree with your opinion, thank them. Then, talk to a friend who has different elected officials. Encourage them to do the same." 

*Illinois National Guard has been in partnership with Poland's Army since the Polish Partnership for Peace was established in the 1990s, according to Polish historian Jan Lorys.

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