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Sen. Coons weighs in on Ukraine after Europe trip

Senator Chris Coons talking with military leaders in Europe
Office of Sen. Chris Coons
Coons visited Poland and Lithuania after his trip to Germany with Sens. Dick Durbin and Jeanne Shaheen

Sen. Chris Coons visited Europe this past week just before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Coons joined a bipartisan delegation at the Munich Security Conference this week, and went on to visit military partners in Poland and Lithuania, both close to the conflict unfolding in Ukraine.

He says the visit showed him European allies are more unified than ever because of this crisis, which will prove important with increasing sanctions against the Russian government also affecting countries opposing the invasion.

“I did not sense any significant disunity among the European leaders with whom we met,” says Coons. “If anything, national leaders with whom we had issues that were causing some tension or distance — were clearly being brought together by the tension of this moment.”

Coons says one significant change was relations with Poland, which has recently attempted to undermine judicial and media independence.

He says the Polish government showed commitment to its NATO allies and President Biden in standing against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s actions.

Coons says both Ukraine and Russia provide a significant amount of agricultural products to Europe, and combined with Russia’s supply of fuel, the impacts may be seen the most among European countries.

He believes that means the United States has an important role in supporting European allies in the coming months, as a major producer of oil and agriculture.

“So there will be some significant costs for consumers in the months ahead,” he says. “And we will have some hard conversations to have about how do we provide appropriate support for consumers here and how do our partners sustain these tough sanctions.”

Coons says the United States, which enjoys independence from a reliance on Russian exports, must carefully balance its role in helping European countries so the harsh economic sanctions placed on Russia remain.

He adds keeping the country unified behind a strong response to Russia’s action will also be a challenge in the coming months.

Roman Battaglia is a corps member withReport for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.

Roman Battaglia grew up in Portland, Ore, and now reports for Delaware Public Media as a Report For America corps member. He focuses on politics, elections and legislation activity at the local, county and state levels.