By Sens. Jon Kyl, Ron Johnson, Jeff Sessions and Mike Crapo
Special to Roll Call
May 16, 2011, Midnight
The Baltic States have demonstrated their commitment to NATO and the U.S. by participating in Iraq and Afghanistan without caveats, and Estonia is one of a few NATO members prepared to honor its pledge to spend 2 percent of its gross domestic product on defense. All three want NATO to continue “air policing” over their territory, and we believe they are willing to provide the bases and reimburse the U.S. for our costs. This arrangement could serve as an example for other NATO members as we reconfigure our force structure in Europe.
The Baltic States are strongly opposed to the removal of U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. If states hosting these weapons insist on removal from their territory, some have indicated the Baltic States may be willing to host them, especially with thousands of Russian weapons across their borders. And, understandably, they are all deeply concerned about what U.S.-Russia and NATO-Russia missile defense cooperation could mean for their defense.
During a recent visit to these nations, we repeatedly heard what Reagan’s legacy means to the people and leaders there. One prominent Baltic leader urged the United States to locate “Reagan Centers” in each country, not only to cement the 40th president’s legacy, but to provide an understanding of the political and economic policies that have helped create freedom and prosperity in the United States.
In this centennial anniversary of Reagan’s birth, we agree and believe that American leaders, both inside and outside of government, should work together to make such centers a reality.
Perhaps nowhere on Earth can people be found who are more committed to freedom than in Georgia, the Baltic States and Ukraine.
The U.S. should seize this moment with the 21st century’s “belt of freedom and democracy,” not only to support them but to provide a clear example to the Russian people who, with the right policies and leaders, could enjoy the same opportunities.