May 15, 2022 - Politics & Policy

McConnell defends Ukraine aid: "This is not some handout"

Mitch McConnell

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Sunday rejected criticism from some Republicans about sending billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine, telling reporters that supporting Ukraine is a critical U.S. interest and "not some handout."

Why it matters: The Senate is set to pass a $40 billion humanitarian and military aid package for Ukraine as soon as Wednesday. Fifty-seven House Republicans voted against the bill last week, highlighting growing opposition within the GOP also shared by pro-Trump candidates running for Congress.

What they're saying: "This is not some handout. This is to prevent this ruthless thug from beginning a march through Europe. The first place to do that is in Ukraine, and that's what we're determined to do," McConnell told reporters from Stockholm, a day after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.

  • "Look, there have always been isolation voices in the Republican Party, like prior to World War II. That's perfectly all right. This is a debate worth having, it's an important subject," he continued.
  • "I think one of the lessons we learned during World War II is not standing up to aggression early is a huge misjudgment."

Driving the news: McConnell will travel to Helsinki on Monday with Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), John Cornyn (R-Texas) and John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) to meet with Finland's President Sauli Niinistö, who officially confirmed Sunday that his country will apply for NATO membership.

  • McConnell said the U.S. should be "first in line" to ratify Finland and its neighbor Sweden's expected applications to NATO, calling the historic bids "one of the good things that's come out of this invasion."
  • McConnell also urged President Biden to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, which Ukrainian officials have called for in response to the atrocities committed by Russian forces.
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