McConnell, GOP senators visit Helsinki amid NATO talks – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports

WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell and a delegation of GOP senators will visit Helsinki on Monday to speak with the Finnish president, as the previously neutral Nordic nation bordering Russia is targeting NATO membership.

McConnell is a staunch supporter of the western military alliance and the visit of the Republicans, who made a surprise stop in the Ukrainian capital over the weekend shows American support for the region while Ukraine fights against the Russian invasion.

Finnish President’s Office Sauli Niinisto said Sunday that McConnell and Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John Barrasso of Wyoming and John Cornyn of Texas will meet to discuss Finland NATO membership, the Ukraine war and other topics. McConnell’s office confirmed the visit.

McConnell was in Stockholm on Sunday while senior diplomats from NATO’s 30 member states met in Berlin to discuss increasing support for Ukraine Steps by Finland, Sweden and other countries to join NATO in the face of Russia’s threats.

A few hours after Finland’s announcement, Sweden’s ruling party also backed NATO membership, a move that could lead to the country’s bid within days.

The high-level meeting of US lawmakers in Finland takes place as Congress works on the approval $40 billion military aid to Ukraine, a significant infusion of support for the region. The measure includes $6 billion for Ukraine for intelligence, equipment and training of its armed forces, and $4 billion for funding to help Ukraine and NATO allies build their armed forces.

The latest round of aid would increase US support for Ukraine to over $50 billion, which has raised concerns among some conservative Republicans about the level of spending abroad. The measure stalled in the Senate due to an objection from Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., but McConnell is determined to see it passed in the coming week.

“They are only asking for the resources they need to defend themselves against this deranged invasion,” McConnell said of the Ukrainians last week. “And they need that help now.”

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who had already pushed aid through the House with bipartisan votes, said of Senate Republicans on CNN’s State of the Union: “You couldn’t pass the Ukraine bill if the senators… go to Ukraine empty-handed with promises. We passed the bill.”

On Saturday, McConnell and his colleagues met with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyyand then issued a statement after leaving the country: “Our delegation reiterated to President Zelenskyy that the United States stands firmly behind Ukraine and will maintain our support until Ukraine wins this war.”

McConnell added, “It is absolutely in our national interest to help Ukraine achieve victory in this war and to help Ukraine and other countries deter other aggressive wars before they begin.”

Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address on Saturday that he believed the senators’ trip “shows the strong bond between the Ukrainian and American people. We discussed various areas of support for our country, including defense and finance, as well as tightening sanctions against Russia.”

It was the second high-profile congressional delegation to visit Ukraine in as many weeks. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., visited May 1 with a group of House Democrats and promised Zelenskyy that the United States “will be there for you until the fight is over.”

First Lady Jill Biden visited western Ukraine last weekend to a Mother’s Day meeting with Zelenskyy’s wife Olena Zelenska.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed.

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Laura Coffey

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