By U.S. Ambassador Judy Rising Reinke
This is a dangerous moment for Europe and for freedom-loving people around the world. By launching a premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified attack on the people of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin has also committed an assault on the principles that uphold global peace and democracy. Of these principles, one of the most fundamental is the right of every state to set its own course and choose its own alliances. President Putin, facilitated in his efforts by the Lukashenko regime in Belarus, seeks to strip the Ukrainian people of this right through the use of force. Montenegro has a deep stake in this conflict because its security will be impacted if Putin continues his campaign to undermine European security.
The United States has urged Russia to stop its war of aggression against Ukraine and choose the path of diplomacy. But as long as President Putin continues his war of choice against Ukraine, the United States, together with our Allies and partners across the globe, will continue to support the Ukrainian people as they defend their country with bravery that is inspiring the world. As a result of unprecedented global sanctions coordination, the United States, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Japan, and Canada have removed selected Russian banks from the SWIFT messaging system and imposed restrictive measures on the Russian Central Bank. President Biden announced sweeping financial sanctions and stringent export controls that will damage both Russia’s and Belarus’ economy, financial system, and access to technology, and thus undercut their ability to wage war.
We praise Montenegro for joining tough EU sanctions, providing humanitarian and security assistance, and for closing its airspace to Russian aircraft. Montenegro is also standing strong with Ukraine, expressing its solidarity and condemning Moscow’s aggression in various international fora. At the same time, we look to all political and civil society leaders in Montenegro, an important NATO Ally, to unequivocally denounce Putin’s war of choice in Ukraine. This is a civilizational issue, a choice between freedom and oppression.
In addition to economic penalties, the Biden Administration has committed $1 billion in security assistance to Ukraine in the past year to help the brave people of Ukraine defend their country. The United States stands ready to defend every inch of NATO territory and NATO Allies have also added their own forces and capabilities to ensure our collective defense and contribute to NATO’s Rapid Response Force to bolster our shared security on the Eastern Flank.
Vladimir Putin planned his brutal attack on the people of Ukraine for a long time. He rejected every good-faith effort by the United States and our Allies and partners to address his fabricated security concerns and to avoid needless conflict and human suffering by engaging in diplomacy and dialogue. We declassified our intelligence about Russia’s plans so there could be no confusion and no cover up. President Putin chose this war.
The people of the Western Balkans know all too well the consequences of conflict. We must not let Russia use its war of choice to hold back the progress of the countries of this region. Russia is not looking out for your best interests. Montenegro’s future is in Europe as a full-fledged member of the European Union. To that end, it is imperative that Montenegrin political leaders take needed steps to unblock key institutions, such as Parliament, at this critical moment for Europe’s future – not only to ensure Montenegro can fulfill its NATO commitments to mutual self-defense, but also to speed its progress in the EU accession process.
In the face of one of the most significant challenges to European security and democratic ideals since World War II, the United States and our Allies and partners have joined together in solidarity. President Putin has failed to undermine our shared belief in the fundamental right of sovereign nations to choose their destiny and their allies. And President Putin will fail to erase the proud nation of Ukraine. In the contest between democracy and autocracy, between sovereignty and subjugation, make no mistake: Freedom will prevail.