- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2018

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan told legislators in central Europe Tuesday that the U.S. and its allies “will not tolerate” Russia’s efforts to destabilize democracies, as he promoted a more robust U.S. military presence in Europe.

A day after the U.S. and at least 21 other countries expelled more than 130 Russian diplomats, Mr. Ryan told the parliament in the Czech Republic that Russia “meddles in democratic elections throughout Europe, as it did in the United States.”

“More furtively, it spreads disinformation, and engages in cyber attacks,” Mr. Ryan said in remarks prepared for delivery. “We must see this for what it is: an attempt to sow discord among our peoples, divide allies, and destabilize democratic institutions. We cannot and we will not tolerate it.”

President Trump on Monday ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian intelligence officers from the U.S. and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle in response to Moscow’s poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England.

The victims were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent; Russia has denied responsibility for the attack, which also caused a police officer to become seriously ill.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said through a spokesman that Moscow will retaliate by expelling Western diplomats.

The Czech Republic, whose territory was under the control of the Soviet Union during the Cold War, also expelled Russian operatives on Monday.

Mr. Ryan noted that Mr. Trump last week signed a spending bill that added about $1.4 billion this year for the European Deterrence Initiative, created to reassure allies in Eastern European and deter Russia from further incursions after its illegal annexation of Crimea.

“It includes beginning the build-up of a division’s worth of equipment being prepositioned over five locations on this continent,” Mr. Ryan said. “We want you to see that America is committed to an enduring presence in Europe.”

The EDI funding would grow by another $1.7 billion in fiscal 2019, to $6.5 billion according to the Pentagon’s budget request.

Mr. Ryan said the Czech people “are no strangers to Russian influence, whether in the guise of oppression or subversion.”

“Solidarity on this frontier of freedom is more important than ever. It is everything, really,” he said.

The speaker called on the Czech Republic to support the U.S. in its efforts to beef up the allied military presence throughout NATO countries. He noted that the country has agreed to a plan, under pressure from Mr. Trump, to increase its contributions to NATO to at least 2 percent of its gross domestic product.

“All of the nations that once suffered under Soviet rule have a common interest in building security and prosperity,” Mr. Ryan said. “And we look forward to seeing you take on a larger share of the defense responsibility. This is not simply about meeting a benchmark. It is about expanding our capabilities to address evolving threats.”

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