Lawmakers from NATO PA pledge unflagging support for Ukraine

29 May 2022

Lawmakers from across the NATO Alliance pledged strong support to Ukraine on Sunday in response to an appeal from the country’s Defence Minister for urgent supplies of military aid to help repel the Russian assault. 

“Our servicemen and service women are putting up a valiant fight, but the Russian army is giant, they substantially outnumber us,” Oleksii Reznikov, Minister of Defence of Ukraine, told the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA). 

“We want to save our people and expel them as soon as possible,” he said by video link. “To do that we need heavy weapons […]. We need them fast and we need them in numbers commensurate with the scale of the challenge.”

NATO PA members voiced strong support and pledged to work in their parliaments to speed the transfer of artillery, rocket launchers, tanks and other weapons Ukraine needs to defeat a renewed Russian assault on the east of the country. They also vowed to maintain high levels of support for Ukraine among the public in NATO countries. 

“Ukraine’s fight is also […] our fight,” said US Congressman Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO PA. “Vladimir Putin underestimated the courage and resilience of the Ukrainian people, he also underestimated the solidarity and the will of this body.”

Connolly urged fellow legislators to “redouble” solidarity with Ukraine. “We stand with you. We will back up those words with actions and we will continue to do everything we can to try to make sure that you have what you need to bring this violent, brutal conflict started by Russia to an end.”

The NATO PA Spring Session was relocated from Kyiv to Vilnius because of the war. Parliamentarian Mariana Bezuhla, part of the Ukrainian NATO PA delegation, addressed her colleagues live from the frontline in the Donbas region. 

She briefed the Assembly on the latest fighting, before a rocket attack forced her to take shelter. Bezuhla warned that the Russian invasion aimed to destroy Europe’s democratic order. “It is not only about Ukraine […]. This order is being challenged. That shelling that you hear is a sign of how this order is being broken at every moment.”

Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration, gave a stark account of atrocities by Russian forces against Ukrainian civilians, including widespread torture, rape and murder. “We cannot simply go on calling what is happening on our territory just a war,” she said. “This is terrorism. This is a genocide.”

A call for investigation of all war crimes was included in a draft report presented at the session by US Congressman Rick Larsen. It also urged NATO Allies “to increase and sustain the deliveries of the most critical weapon systems to Ukraine, to increase sanctions on Russia [and] to devise a Marshall Plan-type arrangement to rebuild Ukraine after the war.”

“The NATO PA will continue to stand with the Ukrainian people and for an independent sovereign Ukraine, no matter how long it takes,” Larsen told the Assembly. “Ukraine stands as the frontline of the free world.”

A separate report drafted by French Senator Cédric Perrin said a summit of NATO leaders next month in Madrid should update the Alliance’s Strategic Concept to beef up defences in the east of the Alliance in light of Russia’s attack on Ukraine. The existing approach with relatively small numbers of troops no longer works, Perrin insisted.

“The Allies’ current tripwire deterrence posture is too small,” the report states. “Such a position is unacceptable today and Allies must plan for a forward-deployment capability necessary to stop any Russian attack immediately without ceding territory.” 

That was supported by Lithuanian Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas, who said the deployment of a brigade-sized NATO force combined with the proposed entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO would have a formidable deterrence effect in the Baltic region. 

“If we do our homework, the contribution of Finland and Sweden will turn this region into a safe region and for Russia it will be rather difficult to engage in any aggressive action,” he said.