Russia’s war against Ukraine must be met with continued, unwavering support for Ukraine, Gerald E. Connolly, President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA), said on Friday. NATO leaders at their summit in Madrid next month must also respond with a robust overhaul of the Strategic Concept setting out the Alliance’s military and political priorities.
“A radically different approach to Russia is obviously called for,” the US Congressman told a news conference as 225 lawmakers from the 30-nation NATO Alliance and partner delegations gathered for four days of talks in the Lithuanian capital.
Setting out the Assembly’s priorities for next month’s Strategic Concept review is a major theme for the NATO PA session in Vilnius which is focused on the Alliance’s response to Russia’s brutal and illegal war on Ukraine.
Connolly paid tribute to the heroic resistance of the Ukrainian military and people over the three months since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his unprovoked attack.
He restated full support for Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity and condemned recent suggestions that Kyiv should surrender territory in exchange for a peace deal, backing a full restoration of all Ukrainian territory, including the Donbas and Crimea.
The Assembly’s 2022 Spring Session should have been held in Kyiv, but the Russian invasion forced its relocation to Vilnius. Connolly said Lithuania’s strong support for Ukraine and understanding of the crisis made it the right place to hold the talks.
“Lithuania has great clarity on the nature of the threat we face in Europe, in the form of a brutal kleptocracy in Russia […] and the malign brutality of a dictator who murders abroad and is now killing, wantonly, innocents in a neighbouring country,” he said.
Legislators at the Vilnius meeting are expected to adopt a set of declarations condemning the Russian invasion and urging Alliance leaders to step up support for Ukraine, tighten economic pressure on Moscow and bolster NATO’s defences.
“NATO has shown a solidarity that I know Vladimir Putin did not suspect would exist,” Connolly said. “We see Alliance members coming together to provide assistance to the Ukrainian people who are, after all, seeking a very simple thing: freedom.”
Audronius Ažubalis, Chairman of the Lithuanian Delegation of the NATO PA, added his support for a robust response to the war from the Madrid summit. “Ukraine is of crucial importance,” he said. “We have to listen to Ukraine.”
In particular, Ažubalis urged Allies to heed Ukraine’s appeals for more military assistance. “Ukraine needs weapons, they need rocket systems that are crucial for Ukraine to resist the aggressor forces and ensure that there is a turning point in the war.”
Asked about other top priorities of the NATO PA for the new Strategic Concept, Connolly also stressed the need to reaffirm the centrality of NATO’s shared democratic values, which Russia’s war makes even more timely and important. Specifically, the Assembly is proposing the establishment, within NATO, of a Democratic Resilience Center, to serve as a resource and clearinghouse of best practices on democratic benchmarks for members, partners and aspirants.