Daines: Congressional delegation puts Russia on notice to stop meddling in U.S. affairs

Sen. Steve Daines

A delegation of Republican lawmakers put Russian leaders in Moscow on notice this month, warning them not to meddle in the 2018 U.S election and to recognize the sovereignty of Ukraine, Sen. Steve Daines said Monday after returning from Moscow.

Daines, who described the congressional delegation as the largest to visit Russia in recent memory, said the face-to-face talks confirmed his belief that the U.S. must hold the nuclear superpower accountable for its aggressive actions.

“It reinforced how essential it is for the U.S. to remain steadfast in holding Russia accountable to its existing international commitments, for its aggressive actions in eastern Europe as well as around the world, and how committed we need to remain in supporting our allies in the region, including NATO,” Daines said.

According to a recent congressional report, a Russian-backed propaganda group used social media to try and disrupt the U.S. energy industry and influence energy policy. Daines said U.S. intelligence also found that Russia meddled in the 2016 election, also using social media.

Toughening sanctions on Russia remain an option for continued interference in domestic issues, Daines said, while boosting domestic energy production and exporting it to U.S. allies would undercut Russian energy advances.

“Europe, in particular, would be much better served and more secure if they moved their energy dependency on the U.S. instead of Russia,” Daines said. “They try to undermine us by trying to stop our pipelines, whether it’s the Keystone Pipeline, whether it’s getting an export terminal built in the state of Washington, or a pipeline across the state of New York to get natural gas to the coast.”

Daines, who fielded questions from Montana reporters during a media call, said Russia currently supplies 30 percent of Europe’s natural gas and 50 percent of the natural gas consumed by Germany. That leaves them “at the mercy of Russia,” he added.

“Energy is one of the most strategic cards we have to play in this fight, and it’s very important we continue building out our pipeline infrastructure in this country so we can get more (liquid natural gas) over to Europe,” Daines said.

Daines blamed the governors of New York and Washington for hindering U.S. energy exports, be it natural gas to Europe or coal to Japan. He urged the nation’s coastal governors to “get on board.”

“The governor of New York and the governor of the state of Washington are blocking our ability for us to get U.S. energy to our shores and get them off to our allies,” said Daines. “The world would be generally much safer if it reduces its dependency on the Middle East and Russia for energy.”