US Congressman: ‘I would die for Tallinn’

Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL15), (photo: Office of Congressman John Shimkus)Many Americans served in Europe during the Cold War. I was one of them, serving on the border of the former Czechoslovakia from 1981 through 1984.

I served in the 1st Battalion, 54th Infantry, a part of the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Armored Division. Our battle plan called us to defend the German town of Marktredwitz.

We knew that if an invasion occurred we would be met with three enemy echelons. First we would face the Czechs, then the East Germans, and finally the Russians themselves. We had great hope of stopping the Czechs and slowing the East Germans, but we really did not think that we would still be around to face the advancing Soviets. I would die in Marktredwitz….

[A] growing NATO has done more to preserve the peace and security in Europe than any other institution….

When the USSR dissolved and freedom returned to Eastern Europe, most former captive nations desired the protection of NATO — a desire that helped to rapidly transform these former communist countries into thriving democracies. That’s because NATO requires aspiring member states to hold free and fair elections, make their governments more transparent and accountable, uphold the rule of law and move toward freer markets. The former captive nations’ transition from communism to democracy and centralized economies to competitive markets was not easy, but NATO is stronger and the world is safer and more free because we integrated these young democracies into the West and into our defensive alliance….

NATO has thrived for many decades throughout countless election cycles in many countries. These countries have all gone through swings from the left to the right and back again. But even as national leaders have come and gone, NATO has remained steadfast in its mission to provide security for all its members, and it must continue to be that guarantee for future generations.

I would die today for Tallinn because I would have died for Bonn, Paris, and London 32 years ago. That is the NATO that I am proud to have served with and that I am proud to support today.

John Shimkus is a 1980 graduate of the United States Military Academy and served as an Infantry Officer in the former West Germany from 1981–1984. Elected to Congress in 1996, he established the Baltic Caucus with former Congressman Dennis Kucinich. Shimkus also served as a member of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly from 2001 to 2014, serving on the Defense and Security Committee, Co-Rapporteur on Terrorism and Vice-Chairman of the assembly.

Image: Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL15), (photo: Office of Congressman John Shimkus)