During a visit to North America, President of the Riigikogu Lauri Hussar (Eesti 200) and his Latvian and Lithuanian counterparts Daiga Mierina and Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen met with U.S. Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) in Washington on Tuesday to discuss aid to Ukraine. Hussar confirmed that Johnson recognizes the Baltics' contributions to defense.
While the U.S. Congress still has yet to approve a more than $60 billion aid package to Ukraine, Hussar confirmed in an interview with ERR that what's happening in Ukraine is taken very seriously at the Capitol, and that efforts are underway to find a compromise.
What was the message that the Baltic speakers emphasized in their meeting with Johnson?
We managed to discuss a variety of topics within that half hour, but we of course focused primarily on helping Ukraine – on what the Baltic states have done to help Ukraine, what the U.S. has done and what more needs to be done for Ukraine to win this war.
At our meetings, we discussed a trio of issues which of course included helping Ukraine as well as the mobilization of frozen Russian assets. Corresponding bills are pending in both Estonia's parliament and in Congress and are expected to be approved soon. We also both expressed that we need to move on this quickly.
We also spoke about bringing Russia and Russian war criminals to justice. This is likewise a vital step, which is supported by the majority of the Western world but regarding which steps must be taken to ensure that it's possible for all of these decisions to be implemented as well.
Today, I met with Speakers of the Baltic states to discuss ongoing challenges that face our countries. We discussed the importance of deterring threats like China, Russia, and Iran, and we noted the importance of viable U.S. energy production for the Baltics and the risks posed… pic.twitter.com/RUNAV6DKOx— Speaker Mike Johnson (@SpeakerJohnson) January 30, 2024
What's the mood like on Capitol Hill? How well do they understand what's really going on in Ukraine?
I think everyone we spoke with today, and of course Mike Johnson, understand quite well what's going on in Ukraine, what kind of aid Ukraine needs, and what we could do together to help Ukraine. A discernible consensus exists on this matter.
There's not much difference between the Republicans and Democrats on this one. Right now, the issue is mainly related to the fact that an agreement hasn't been reached regarding U.S. domestic policy, and that has unfortunately also hindered the ability to make foreign policy decisions as well.
It's been said that separating the Ukraine aid package from the border agreement could facilitate these talks. How realistic is that?
Speaker Johnson did indeed discuss the fact that one option is to split up the bills regarding migration and the Ukraine aid package so that they could be handled separately. But he said that no decision or solution has yet been reached regarding this issue.
Debates are certainly ongoing on Capitol Hill over this. And he didn't rule out that this might then be one way to move forward from this current deadlock.
Keeping the momentum in our outreach with Estonian and Latvian colleagues, addressing shared concerns in security, politics, and economy with US lawmakers. Grateful for the enlightening meetings with @SenatorCardin, @SenatorRicketts, @BettyMcCollum04, and others. pic.twitter.com/NO2URnyhpC— Viktorija Cmilyte-Nielsen (@VCmilyte) January 30, 2024
To what extent are Estonia and the other Baltic states' contributions noticed here?
Estonia's contributions to helping Ukraine was highlighted in particular at all of our meetings, including with Speaker Johnson. The fact that Estonia has contributed 1.4 percent of its GDP to helping Ukraine is impressive.
They were of course also very pleased with the fact that Estonia as well as Latvia and Lithuania's defense spending is well above the two-percent mark. 3.2 percent in Estonia, Lithuania will soon be reaching 3 percent and Latvia has also committed to reaching 3 percent; true, they're currently at 2.4 percent.
All of these numbers were very impressive for them, and reassured them that other NATO allies that have not yet crossed the two-percent threshold will also find in themselves the confidence that at some point they'll do so as well.
That 2 percent is certainly of emblematic significance here in Washington, but considered equally important is this commitment and contribution to helping Ukraine. Both are certainly extremely important.
Editor: Aili Vahtla