U.S., NATO allies strengthen trans-Atlantic bond

The U.S. and NATO stand united in the face of global aggression, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a November 30–December 2 trip to Europe.

“It’s critical to our security,” Blinken said about NATO during the alliance’s ministerial in Riga, Latvia. “It’s built on shared values. It’s a powerful force for stability in Europe and North America.”

Leaders lining up for official NATO photo (NATO)
NATO foreign ministers pose for a photo during their meeting in Riga, Latvia, November 30. (NATO)

Blinken said the U.S. and NATO are fully committed to Ukraine and reiterated the administration’s concern about the buildup of Russian troops near the Ukrainian border.

“The United States remains unwavering in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and committed to our security partnership with Ukraine,” Blinken said. But he warned Russia, “we are prepared to impose severe costs for further Russian aggression in Ukraine.”

Group of people meeting at table (© Jonathan Nackstrand/AP Images)
Blinken (right) met Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba (left) in Stockholm December 2 on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. (© Jonathan Nackstrand/AP Images)

The secretary also attended the December 1–2 meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Ministerial Council. Blinken called the OSCE an “invaluable institution” because its view of security includes respect for human rights and democratic principles of government.

While there, Blinken met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and pressed Russia to reduce its troop buildup near Ukraine, abide by the cease-fire outlined in the Minsk agreement and allow OSCE monitors full access to the region.

Antony Blinken shaking hands with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (© Jonathan Nackstrand/AP Images)
Blinken (left) greets Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on the sidelines of an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe meeting in Stockholm December 2. (© Jonathan Nackstrand/AP Images)

“The best way to avert a crisis is through diplomacy,” Blinken said. But he warned, “if Russia decides to pursue confrontation, there will be serious consequences.”

The U.S. and its allies also are holding Belarus accountable. The U.S. announced new sanctions against 32 individuals and entities in Belarus for their role in supporting President Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s repression.

Blinken urged Belarus to release all political prisoners, hold fair elections under independent observation and stop migrant smuggling along its borders. The EU, United Kingdom and Canada also announced sanctions against Belarus.

Antony Blinken smiling in center of group of people (© Jonathan Nackstrand/AP Images)
Blinken (center) meets delegates during an Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe meeting in Stockholm December 2. (© Jonathan Nackstrand/AP Images)

During the trip, Blinken spotlighted the connections between freedom and stability and between domestic repression and cross-border aggression. “We’ve seen how countries that systematically violate human rights at home sow instability in other countries, and how rulers who abuse their power and ignore the rights of their people give license to leaders in other places to do the same,” he said.

“Lasting peace and prosperity require respect for both the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries and the human rights of all people.”