NATO leaders in Washington condemn Russia as Zelensky thanks Congress for aid to Ukraine • New Jersey Monitor

NATO leaders in Washington condemn Russia as Zelensky thanks Congress for aid to Ukraine • New Jersey Monitor
NATO leaders in Washington condemn Russia as Zelensky thanks Congress for aid to Ukraine • New Jersey Monitor

WASHINGTON – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Washington, where the leaders pledged additional support to the Eastern European country in the fight against ongoing Russian attacks.

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

Zelensky last visited the Capitol in December, when Republican lawmakers and the White House were arguing for months about new aid for Ukraine, nearly two years after Russia’s large-scale invasion. In April, Congress approved $60 billion in aid.

That measure remained on hold in the House for two months as Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana, held a series of meetings to decide whether the chamber should act.

Johnson ultimately decided to push ahead with the plan and introduced four bills, each of which would be voted on individually before being bundled into a package and sent to the Senate.

Johnson told reporters after the meeting on Wednesday that Zelensky gave an update on the situation in Ukraine and that the two had a “good conversation.”

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

Asked if he supported restrictions on Ukraine’s use of U.S.-supplied weapons, Johnson replied: “I have stated that it is the will of Congress to give them the flexibility to use the weapons and the aid that have been provided to us as they see fit. So I am a supporter of that. I believe that is the intent of Congress.”

The Biden administration recently allowed Ukraine to use U.S. weapons for limited attacks across the Russian border.

Invitation to visit Ukraine

When asked by a reporter before the meeting, Zelensky invited Johnson to visit Ukraine, but the spokesman replied that his schedule would be tight until after the presidential election in November.

“It’s difficult to find a date, but I would definitely like to go,” Johnson said.

The personal meeting with Johnson followed Zelensky’s previous meeting with a bipartisan Senate delegation led by Schumer and McConnell.

A video published by C-SPAN shows Zelensky shaking hands with the New York Democrat and the Kentucky Republican before entering the Kennedy Caucus Room in the Russell Senate Office Building, where he will award them the Ukrainian Order of Merit, First Class.

In a statement, Zelensky said he and the MPs “discussed the current situation on the battlefield and American defense support. I informed them about Russia’s increased missile terror against Ukrainian cities and critical infrastructure.”

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

Schumer described it as an “honor” to welcome Zelensky to the Senate.

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

“The Senate has shown leadership by pushing to provide Ukraine with the support it needs. America stands with Ukraine,” he said.

McConnell released a statement on X saying that decades ago, President Ronald Reagan “reminded the world that ‘supporting freedom fighters is self-defense.’ There is no difference between American interests and defending Ukraine. As always, I am proud to welcome President @ZelenskyyUA to the U.S. Senate.”

Russia condemns

Late Wednesday afternoon, NATO members announced their official summit declaration, condemning Russia as the “most significant and direct threat to Allied security” and pledging additional military equipment, training and financial resources to Ukraine.

“We reaffirm that we will be in a position to invite Ukraine to join the Alliance if Allies agree and conditions are met. The NATO and NATO-Ukraine Council summit decisions, together with the ongoing work of Allies, form a bridge to Ukraine’s NATO membership,” the statement later said.

President Joe Biden opened the NATO meeting on Wednesday afternoon with brief public remarks ahead of a closed working session of member states.

“Right now, Russia is at war with the United States when it comes to arms production,” Biden said. “… I don’t think we can afford to let the alliance fall behind.”

Biden also delivered an opening speech at the alliance’s 75th anniversary event in Washington on Tuesday evening, saying NATO was “more powerful than ever.”

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