NATO leaders in D.C. condemn Russia as Zelenskyy thanks Congress for Ukraine aid

Republished from Kentucky Lantern

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WASHINGTON — Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited U.S. lawmakers Wednesday on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Washington, where world leaders are pledging additional support to the Eastern European nation as it battles Russia’s continued assault.

Zelenskyy met House Speaker Mike Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other senators behind closed doors as the 32 NATO members huddled across town crafting a summit declaration that stopped short of a full invitation for Ukraine to join the alliance.

Zelenskyy last visited Capitol Hill in December as a Republican lawmakers and the White House wrangled for months over new aid to Ukraine nearly two years after Russia’s full-scale invasion. Congress later approved $60 billion in assistance in April.

That measure spent two months stalled in the House as Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, held a series of meetings on whether that chamber should act.

Johnson ultimately decided to move forward, releasing four bills that would each receive separate votes, before being bundled as one package and sent to the Senate.

Johnson told reporters after Wednesday’s meeting that Zelenskyy provided an update on the situation in Ukraine and that the two shared a “good conversation.”

“And you know, expressed their gratitude for the assistance of the United States and their hope that they can prevail there and that you know, good will triumph over evil,” according to a transcript provided by Johnson’s office.

When asked if he supported restrictions on how Ukraine can use weapons provided by the U.S., Johnson responded, “I explained that the, the will of Congress was to allow them the flexibility to use the weapons and assistance that were sent to prosecute the war as they see fit. So I’m a supporter of that. I believe that’s what Congress intended.”

The Biden administration recently permitted Ukraine to use U.S. weapons for limited strikes over the Russian border.

Invitation to visit Ukraine

Prompted by a reporter’s question prior to the meeting, Zelenskyy invited Johnson to visit Ukraine, but the speaker responded that his schedule will be tight until after the presidential election in November.

“It’s difficult to find a time to go, but I’d certainly like to,” Johnson said.

The face-to-face sit-down with Johnson followed Zelenskyy’s earlier meeting with a bipartisan Senate delegation led by Schumer and McConnell.

Video published by C-SPAN shows Zelenskyy shaking hands with the New York Democrat and Kentucky Republican before entering the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building, where he awarded them the Ukrainian Order Of Merit First Class.

Zelenskyy said in a statement he and the lawmakers “discussed the current battlefield situation and American defense support. I informed them about Russia’s increased missile terror against Ukrainian cities and critical infrastructure.”

“I extend my gratitude to the President of the United States, both chambers of Congress, both parties, and the American people for their support of Ukraine,” he wrote on social media shortly after the meeting.

Schumer described the “honor” of welcoming Zelenskyy to the Senate.

“MAGA extremists — led by Trump — wanted to just let Putin have his way,” Schumer wrote on social media, referring to Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, and echoing his earlier comments on the Senate floor.

“The Senate showed what leadership looks like by pushing to deliver the support Ukraine needs. America stands with Ukraine,” he said.

McConnell posted a statement on X saying that decades ago, President Ronald Reagan “reminded the world that ‘support for freedom fighters is self-defense.’ There’s no daylight between America’s interests and the cause of Ukraine’s defense. Proud, as always, to welcome President @ZelenskyyUA to the U.S. Senate.”

Russia condemned

Late Wednesday afternoon, NATO members announced their official summit declaration, condemning Russia as the “most significant and direct threat to Allies’ security” and committing additional military equipment, training and funding for Ukraine.

“We reaffirm that we will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance when Allies agree and conditions are met.  The Summit decisions by NATO and the NATO-Ukraine Council, combined with Allies’ ongoing work, constitute a bridge to Ukraine’s membership in NATO,” the declaration later stated.

President Joe Biden opened the NATO meeting with brief public remarks Wednesday afternoon ahead of a closed-door working session among the member nations.

“Right now, Russia is on a wartime footing with regard to defense production,” Biden said. “… We cannot, in my view, we cannot allow the alliance to fall behind.”

Biden also delivered opening remarks for the alliance’s 75th anniversary event Tuesday night in Washington during which he declared NATO as “more powerful than ever.”

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https://kentuckylantern.com/2024/07/10/nato-leaders-in-d-c-condemn-russia-as-zelenskyy-thanks-congress-for-ukraine-aid/