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European lawmakers leave Washington concerned about state of US support for Ukraine

<i>Stringer/Reuters</i><br/>A Ukrainian serviceman checks a Vampire unmanned aerial vehicle before flying near a front line
A Ukrainian serviceman checks a Vampire unmanned aerial vehicle before flying near a front line

By Jennifer Hansler, CNN

(CNN) — Top lawmakers from Estonia, Iceland, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden left meetings in Washington Thursday concerned and frustrated about a lack of urgency from their American colleagues about the need to support Ukraine.

The Nordic-Baltic delegation, comprised of the chairs of each of the country’s parliamentary foreign affairs committees, has traveled to the US capital on numerous occasions to meet with US lawmakers in both the House and Senate to rally for Ukraine as Russia’s full-scale invasion rages on.

“We came here, obviously, to show unity, to show our commitment and hoping that the Americans would hear us,” Diljá Mist Einarsdóttir of Iceland told reporters at a roundtable Thursday morning.

“We are leaving America a little bit sad,” she said.

The issue of US assistance to Kyiv – which received widespread congressional approval at the outset of the war  – has faced growing Republican opposition. Congress has yet to pass legislation for additional funding to Ukraine after last year’s funding was expended.

A Senate bill that tied Ukraine funding to border security measures was blocked on Wednesday. Following that failure, the Senate voted on Thursday afternoon to begin debate on a security spending package with aid to Ukraine.

The European lawmakers, who were in Washington when the vote on the border and funding bill failed, said they are concerned that their US counterparts do not recognize the imperative for Ukraine to quickly receive continued US military support.

Rihards Kols of Latvia noted that “there wasn’t a sense of urgency of what is happening.”

“I got the notion that the war in Ukraine is something very far away, distant from the US,” he said.

“We are so united as never before in Europe, and then you have this phenomenon of isolationism growing with every week in America. This is so strange,” echoed Žygimantas Pavilionis of Lithuania.

They acknowledged that the influence of former President Donald Trump and US domestic election considerations were likely playing a role.

Estonian foreign affairs committee chairman Marko Mihkelson said that many of the lawmakers with whom he met “actually sincerely support Ukraine.”

“Many of them would like to see this bill passed as soon as possible. But they are very much afraid of results of their own elections in November,” he said.

“What was striking was that they are not ready to go and make a case in their own constituencies about that,” Mihkelson said. He and others in the delegation said it felt as though the lawmakers wanted them to “do their job” in making the case for Ukraine funding.

Einarsdóttir suggested that US lawmakers must be willing to act now, rather than considering the political future.

“Donald Trump is not president of the United States,” she said. “The people we are disappointed with they are actual people that hold actual powers.”

“Of course, he’s a very influential person. But at the end of the day, we believe that some very powerful, powerful people, currently powerful people that are holding actual powers and the United States, should do more,” she said.

The lawmakers worry about what message the continued lack of funding – and therefore lack of weaponry – is sending to Russia – a concern that has also been voiced by the Biden administration.

“There’s a seriousness behind the fact that we are here now,” Ine Eriksen Søreide of Norway said.

“Of course, we are concerned about US support for Ukraine. And I say that with quite a lot of solemnity because we are at a place right now where Europe, even though we are giving our fair share, and then some to Ukraine, both when it comes to weapons systems and money, we are not able to fill the gap if the US pulls out,” she said.

The lawmakers rejected criticism that Europe was not doing enough to contribute to Ukraine

“When some Republican congressmen and senators are saying you have to do more –We’re giving everything we have. So we cannot actually do that much more,” Michael Aastrup Jensen of Denmark said.

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