U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan said Eastern Europe remains under threat of brazen aggression by Russian forces.
“Rising authoritarianism and extremism are a threat to emerging democracies and our national security interests,” he said.
The Sarasota Republican issued his comments after leading a bipartisan delegation of members of Congress to meet with troops in Ukraine.
House members visited with American soldiers at the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine.
“I was pleased to hear from our troops on their mission and objectives to keep America safe,” Buchanan said.
“It was a reminder that many service members are stationed across the globe away from their loved ones for months on end. It was a privilege to meet these troops and thank them firsthand for their service and love of country.”
The trip also offered a close-up view of unrest in the region.
Russian ships in November fired on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Black Sea off the coast of the Crimean Peninsula. The BBC reports Ukrainian crew members were injured and Russia captured two gunboats and a tug.
Russia later said the Ukrainian ships entered Russian waters. The government continues to hold 24 Ukrainian servicemen in jail.
The tension between Ukraine and Russia led to the formation of the JMTG-U in 2015. The multinational group includes soldiers from the U.S., United Kingdom, Canada, Lithuania and Poland.
The occupation of Crimea by Russia led to the displacement of 1.5 million Ukrainians and the death of nearly 13,000 more, according to the United Nations Commission for Human Rights.
Buchanan serves as co-chair of the 20-member House Democracy Partnership, which works directly with developing nations.
“The House Democracy Partnership continues to work in a bipartisan basis to combat these threats.”
Fellow House Democracy Partnership co-chair David Price, a North Carolina Democrat, also traveled with the delegation.
The group included six other representatives: Democrats Dina Titus, Gerry Connolly, Barbara Lee and Terri Sewell and Republicans Michael Conaway and Adrian Smith.