By Chris Coons
and Charlie Dent
In August 1990, President George H. W. Bush addressed the American people following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Explaining why he was sending U.S. troops to the Middle East, Bush made a clear case for American leadership in the world.
"If history teaches us anything," he said, "it is that we must resist aggression or it will destroy our freedoms."
We recently returned from a bipartisan congressional trip to Morocco, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Estonia, and Iceland. These countries' leaders are concerned about recent campaign statements suggesting eroding public support for the very principles articulated by Bush in that 1990 speech - fundamental ideas like resisting aggression, seeking diplomatic solutions to international disagreements, and defending a world order based on the rule of law.
As a Republican representative from Pennsylvania and a Democratic senator from Delaware, we disagree on our fair share of issues. But we made it clear to the citizens of the countries we visited that party labels are irrelevant when it comes to standing up for our friends and our principles.
We've pursued that same bipartisan commitment in Congress, too. As members of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, we've fought to prioritize funding for programs that will help bring peace and strengthen deterrence in these unstable times. Our bipartisan support for the European Reassurance Initiative, the NATO Security Investment Program, international security assistance, and humanitarian assistance programs are just a few examples of how our work in Congress is reinforcing our national security interests and honoring our commitments to our allies.
These programs have made a real, positive difference in countries around the world, and are critical for our allies who have stood by us for decades.
Estonia, for example, has gone above and beyond its fiscal commitments to NATO and also deployed troops to serve alongside American service members in Iraq and Afghanistan for years.
Similarly, Iceland and the Czech Republic have proven to be engaged partners in peacekeeping missions, and the people of Ukraine have sought to build an independent, responsible nation despite continued Russian interference.
The countries we visited, like so many around the world, are vital allies and partners. Many were also the battlegrounds of the great struggles against fascism and communism during the 20th century and have been the targets of overt aggression or covert subversion. Because of this history, they are deeply aware of the consequences of isolationism and failing to maintain our international obligations.
Look no further than Ukraine. In 1994, Russia joined the United States and United Kingdom in pledging to "respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine" and "refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine."
Two decades later, following the fall of a Ukrainian government sympathetic to Vladimir Putin, Russia invaded Ukraine and annexed the Crimean Peninsula. Ukrainian soldiers are still fighting and dying for their independence today.
Countries around the world - and Americans of all political parties - condemned Russia's actions for a simple reason: The principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity are vital to a world order based on the rule of law.
Today, Russia poses a direct threat to the sovereignty of Ukraine and the Baltic states, and seeks to undermine the worldview of a unified, free, and peaceful Europe. If the United States does not clearly and consistently stand up to Russian aggression, Putin will continue to test the resolve of both America and our alliances across the Atlantic.
That's why Congress must make clear today what President Bush told the world 26 years ago: "No one, friend or foe, should doubt our desire for peace, and no one should underestimate our determination to confront aggression."
Our partners and allies around the world deserve to know that the United States will pursue peace, confront aggression, and remain committed to the international institutions that have served the world so well since the end of World War II. We cannot forget that a free and stable world makes America safer and more economically secure, too.
As President Bush articulated, standing up for our principles is a cherished bipartisan American tradition. It's a tradition that we will continue to pursue through our work in Congress in the years to come.
U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D., Del.) is a member of the Senate Appropriations and Foreign Relations Committees. @ChrisCoons