This was stated on Sunday by Republican leader in the Senate Mitch McConnell Finland and Sweden would be an “important addition” to NATO, as he led a delegation of Republican senators to the region in support of Russia’s aggression.
McConnell also called on President Joe Biden to appoint Russia a state sponsor of terrorism in connection with its invasion of Ukraine.
McConnell said this in a conversation with journalists from Stockholm Finland and Swedenunlike some members of the Western Alliance, it is likely to be able to pay its NATO commitments and offer significant military capabilities.
“They will be an important addition to NATO if they want to join,” he said, adding: “I think the United States should be the first in line to ratify the treaty for both countries to join.”
McConnell is a longtime supporter of NATO, and his trip to the Nordic countries with Republican senators Susan Collins of Maine, John Barras of Wyoming and John Cornin of Texas is accompanied by them. surprise stop on Saturday in the Ukrainian capital express solidarity in the fight against the Kremlin.
McConnell was in Sweden when leading diplomats from 30 NATO members met in Berlin to discuss greater support for Ukraine and steps by Finland, Sweden and others to join NATO in the face of a threat from Russia.
Hours after Finland’s announcement that it would seek to join NATO, Sweden’s ruling party also approved joining the alliance, which could lead to the country’s bid within days.
The office of Finnish President Sauli Niinistö reported that US lawmakers will meet with the president to discuss Finland’s NATO membership, the war in Ukraine and other issues. McConnell’s office confirmed the visit.
But Turkey, a member of NATO, is “disapproving” of the two additionsTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday, complicating the move to strengthen the alliance as a deterrent to Russia.
High-level meetings take place as Congress works on approval $ 40 billion in military aid to Ukraine, significant support from the region. The measure includes $ 6 billion for Ukraine to reconnoiter, equip and train its forces, plus $ 4 billion in funding to help Ukraine and NATO allies build up their military forces.
The latest round of aid will exceed US support for Ukraine by $ 50 billion, which has caused concern among some conservative Republicans from the isolationist wing of the party, wary of the cost of spending abroad. The measure was suspended in the Senate due to objections from Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., But McConnell is determined to get it passed next week.
“We will do the job,” McConnell told reporters during the conference.
McConnell said it was in America’s interest to support Ukraine by brushing aside criticism from some Republican counterparts, including former President Donald Trump, about the level of spending. This is the resumption of the isolationist approach to foreign policy on the part of the Republican Party faction.
McConnell said he had told Zelensky that Congress had strong bipartisan support for aid to Ukraine. “We are not involved in charity here,” McConnell said. “This should prevent this group of thugs from starting a march through Europe.”
Asked about the Senate’s resolution appointing Russia a state sponsor of terror, McConnell said he supported it. But he also said Biden could declare it on his own, without congressional action.
“I would urge him to do that,” McConnell told reporters.
McConnell could not say whether the latest aid package will be the last before the November election. Expenditures on Ukraine have been a simmering election problem for some Republican candidates.
Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, California, who has already promoted aid to the House with bipartisan votes, told CNN’s “State of the Union” about Republicans in the Senate: with a promise. We have passed the bill. ”
In a video address Saturday after meeting with Republicans, Zelensky said he believed the senators’ trip demonstrated “strong ties between the Ukrainian and American people. We discussed various areas of support for our country, including defense and finance, as well as tougher sanctions against Russia.” ».
It was the second high-profile congressional delegation to stop in Ukraine in the same number of weeks. Pelosi visited on May 1 with a group of Democrats in the House of Representatives and promised Zelensky that the United States “will be near until the struggle is over.”
First Lady Jill Biden visited Western Ukraine last weekend for a meeting dedicated to Mother’s Day with Zelensky’s wife Elena Zelenskaya.
Associated Press writer Jari Tanner of Helsinki contributed to this report.