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Poland’s Tusk says US Republicans may cost ‘thousands of lives’ over Ukraine vote

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Tuesday, March 12th, 2024
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Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk warned U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson on Tuesday that “the fate of millions of people” and “thousands of lives” depends on whether the Republican allows a vote on $60 billion in military aid to Ukraine.

“This is not some political skirmish that (only) matters on the American political scene. Mr Johnson’s failure to make a positive decision will cost thousands of lives. He takes personal responsibility for that,” Tusk told reporters.

Tusk made the comment after he and Polish President Andrzej Duda met at the White House with U.S. President Joe Biden, who told them that U.S. support for Poland is ironclad amid concerns in Europe about Russia.

Biden and the Polish leaders urged Johnson to move ahead with a vote on an aid package that passed the Senate, but that the House Republican leader has held up. Former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican party’s 2024 presidential nomination, opposes aid to Kyiv.

Tusk made clear what he feels are the stakes for Ukraine in its battle against Russian invaders.

“He must be aware … that the fate of millions of people depends on his individual decisions, and thousands of lives in Ukraine today and tomorrow depend on his decisions,” Tusk said of Johnson.

“In an increasingly dangerous world with growing threats, America must remain united with our friends against those who threaten our security,” Johnson said.

Biden and the Poland leaders took stock of the security situation in Europe and what recent Russian territorial gains in Ukraine might mean for the region.

Duda brought up with Biden his campaign for NATO allies to increase their defense spending from 2% of GDP to 3% in response to what he called “the full-scale war launched by Russia right beyond NATO’s eastern border.”

“Russia’s aggression against Ukraine clearly demonstrated that the United States is and should remain the security leader,” he said. “But other allies must take more responsibility for the security of the alliance as a whole.”

Biden, celebrating Poland’s 25 years as a NATO member, reiterated U.S. support for NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense treaty, under which an attack against one ally is considered an attack against all. He said American support for Poland is ironclad.

Last month, Democrat Biden’s likely general election rival, Republican former President Donald Trump, said he would not protect NATO allies who did not spend enough on defense and would encourage Russia “to do whatever the hell they want” with such countries.

The U.S. president urged Congress to approve legislation that would send $60 billion in security aid for Ukraine. The Senate passed the bill last month in a bipartisan vote, but Republican hardliners in the House of Representatives have stalled it.

“We must act before it literally is too late because, as Poland remembers, Russia won’t stop at Ukraine. Putin will keep going, putting Europe and the United States and the entire free world at risk, in my view,” said Biden.

Tusk said ahead of the meeting that he would raise with Biden the need for NATO to strengthen its capabilities on its eastern flank to deter Russia.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters ahead of the talks that the United States will offer to sell 96 Apache attack helicopters to Poland and will approve a $2 billion direct foreign aid loan for Warsaw.

PLEAS FOR AMERICAN HELP

Speaking before the talks, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski urged Johnson to allow a vote on the Ukraine funds, but toned down an earlier plea in which he said the Republican speaker would be blamed if the bill failed and Russian troops advanced.

“If the American package doesn’t arrive … Ukraine might be in difficulty, and that might eventually mean the need for more American troops in Europe,” he told reporters at a Monitor breakfast.

Sikorski also appealed to Johnson’s Baptist faith, saying that Russia “persecutes religious minorities, including Baptists” in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine.

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