NATIONAL NEWS

Blinken and Cameron urge Congress to approve aid for Ukraine, calling it critical for world security

Apr 9, 2024, 2:36 AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Antony Blinken and British Foreign Secretary David Cameron urged Congress on Tuesday to approve new military aid for Ukraine, saying the stalled funding is critical for U.S., European and world security.

Speaking after a meeting at the State Department, Blinken repeated long-standing appeals for lawmakers to unblock the assistance that President Joe Biden has sought for months, while Cameron said he would make the same case in meetings on Capitol Hill “as a great friend” of the United States.

“I come here with no intention to lecture anybody or tell anybody what to do or get in the way of the process of politics and other things in the United States,” he said. “I just come here as a great friend and believer in this country and a believer that it’s profoundly in your interest, in your security, and your future and the future of your partners to release this money and let it through.”

Cameron is just the latest of numerous foreign government officials who have urged American lawmakers to act swiftly to approve the assistance amid increasing concern over the U.S. role. Last week in Brussels, nearly all NATO member foreign ministers said the U.S. contribution is essential, echoing comments by Biden, Blinken and other administration officials.

“The supplemental budget request that President Biden has made of Congress is urgent and it’s imperative since the House is now back in session,” Blinken said. “We look to see that brought before the house and to get a vote as quickly as possible.”

Cameron also met on Monday in Florida with former President Donald Trump, who has been skeptical of Ukraine aid, and said the assistance is “vital for American and European security.” Cameron defended his meeting with Trump as a standard encounter with an opposition figure and said it covered a number of pressing global issues but did not elaborate.

“This was entirely in line with precedent with government ministers meeting with opposition politicians in the run-up to elections,” he said, noting that they discussed “a range of important geopolitical subjects” and that both British and American politicians have frequently met with opposition figures in their respective countries.

“These things are entirely proper,” Cameron said.

Cameron said victory for Ukraine is “vital for American and European security,” but the former president and presumptive Republican candidate is a critic of continued U.S. support, and lawmakers aligned with him are holding up an aid package for Kyiv in Congress.

Cameron and Trump have had several notable differences of opinion in the past. Cameron called Trump’s proposal during his first presidential campaign to ban Muslims from the U.S. “divisive, stupid and wrong.”

In a statement, Trump’s campaign said the meeting was held “to discuss several issues impacting both countries,” including upcoming elections in both Britain and the United States, the implications of Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, the need for NATO allies to meet their commitments on defense spending and “ending the killing in Ukraine.”

The statement did not elaborate on those topics but added that Trump, Cameron and British ambassador to the U.S. Karen Pierce, had “also discussed their mutual admiration for the late Queen Elizabeth II.”

Cameron was British prime minister during the U.K.’s 2016 referendum on whether to leave the European Union — a move he opposed but Trump enthusiastically supported. Cameron resigned after voters narrowly rejected his call to remain in the bloc.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak unexpectedly brought Cameron back into government last year as Britain’s top diplomat.

Cameron said later Tuesday he would urge U.S. lawmakers to approve a new aid package for Ukraine, warning Congress that it is putting the security of the West at risk by continuing to hold up the funding. He’s due to hold talks with lawmakers including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, and is hoping to meet House Speaker Mike Johnson, whose role is key.

In a video posted last week on social network X, Cameron said: “Speaker Johnson can make it happen in Congress.”

A $60 billion package of military aid is bogged down in the House of Representatives as populist conservatives seek to block further funding for the two-year-old conflict and some mainstream Republicans demand concessions on border security before supporting the bill.

After Cameron urged U.S. lawmakers in February not to show “the weakness displayed against Hitler” in the 1930s, Trump ally Marjorie Taylor Greene said he should “worry about his own country.”

Ahead of his trip, Cameron said that “success for Ukraine and failure for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin are vital for American and European security.”

“This will show that borders matter, that aggression doesn’t pay and that countries like Ukraine are free to choose their own future,” he said. “The alternative would only encourage Putin in further attempts to re-draw European borders by force, and would be heard clearly in Beijing, Tehran and North Korea.”

Cameron is also due to discuss the Israel-Hamas war, including efforts to reach a “sustainable cease-fire” and get more aid into Gaza, in talks with officials including Blinken and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. The U.K. is sending a Royal Navy ship to the eastern Mediterranean to bolster efforts to open a maritime aid corridor between Cyprus and a temporary U.S.-built pier in Gaza.

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Lawless reported from London. Jill Colvin contributed from New York.

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Blinken and Cameron urge Congress to approve aid for Ukraine, calling it critical for world security