By Jonathan Landay
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senior Nordic and Baltic lawmakers visiting Washington on Thursday expressed alarm at what they called a lack of urgency and a clear strategy by the United States to help Ukraine defeat Moscow’s invasion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin will move to take more European territory if he wins in Ukraine, raising the danger of a conflict with the U.S.-led NATO alliance that would carry immense human and economic costs, the lawmakers said.
“Guys, wake up,” Zygimantis Pavilionis, chairman of the Lithuanian parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said in comments directed at Democrats and Republicans. “Are you ready to defeat enemy No. 1 that is acting like the Hitler of today?”
The bleak assessment of how Washington is dealing with the threat posed by Europe’s biggest conflict since World War II underscored growing concerns across the Atlantic that U.S. domestic political feuds are undercutting support for Ukraine.
The parliamentary foreign affairs committee chairs from Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Norway spoke at the end of a two-day visit to press for new U.S. aid as Ukraine struggles with ammunition shortages and Russian assaults. All but Sweden are NATO members.
A U.S congressional battle over immigration is stalling $61 billion in new military assistance.
Delegation members said they met administration officials and lawmakers, but mainly sought to speak to Republicans resisting fresh aid. Only one Republican House of Representatives member agreed to see them, they said.
There “wasn’t a sense of urgency,” said Latvian parliamentarian Rihards Kols, adding it was “bizarre” that some American lawmakers urged the Europeans to engage more with U.S. citizens to explain the stakes of a Russian victory.
“It is absolutely your job to do that,” he said he responded.
Several delegation members criticized President Joe Biden for opposing Ukraine’s admission to NATO and his strategy of “doing what it takes” to aid Kyiv.
“We don’t hear a clear (U.S.) message how this war should end up,” said Marko Mihkelson, chair of the Estonian parliamentary affairs committee.
Delegation members said they repeatedly heard Europe was not doing enough to help Ukraine. Kols called this a false assertion that “has really played into Putin’s cards” with narratives of war fatigue.
“All of our countries around this table have (given) more than 1% of GDP of military aid to Ukraine. The U.S. stands (at) around 0.3%,” said Mihkelson.
Russia has massively boosted its military budget, its defense industries are operating around the clock and Moscow is importing Western technologies despite international sanctions, Kols said.
“We should not underestimate their will to outlast us,” he continued. “They don’t care about human lives. They don’t care about the cost. We should wake up.”
(Reporting by Jonathan Landay; Editing by Don Durfee and David Ljunggren)
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