Baltic parliament leaders issue support for Johnson ahead of high-stakes Ukraine vote

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is receiving support from his Baltic counterparts for moving toward a vote to provide more U.S. assistance to Ukraine, following months of intense diplomacy by European officials pleading for continued American leadership on the world stage. 

In a letter sent Thursday, the three heads of the Baltic parliaments thanked Johnson for setting up a vote for new U.S. assistance for Ukraine. They also urged quick passage on the House floor; a vote is expected to take place Saturday.

“We are counting on Congress to make the right decision and approve the assistance package to Ukraine that it so urgently needs,” the parliament leaders wrote.

The letter was signed by Lauri Hussar, president of Estonia’s parliament, the Riigikogu; Daiga Mieriņa, speaker of Latvia’s parliament, the Saeima; and Viktorija Čmilytė-Nielsen, speaker of Lithuania’s parliament, the Seimas. 

The letter reflects the acute anxiety in Europe over whether Congress will continue to provide aid to Ukraine, which was invaded in February 2022 by Russia.

House Republicans opposed to providing aid to Ukraine, many of them influenced by former President Trump, for months have delayed additional U.S. aid to Ukraine. They have criticized Europe as failing to ease what they view as a burden on the U.S. in funding European security. 

The Baltics, which are NATO allies, believe Russian President Vladimir Putin is intent on invading their countries if he is successful in Ukraine. 

“Europe is taking historic steps to strengthen its defense capabilities, but this inevitably takes time – time that Ukraine does not have. That is why U.S. aid is indispensable at this crucial juncture before Europe’s ability to defend itself has come into its own and we do even more to help Ukraine,” the Baltic speakers wrote. 

“The Russia threat continues to be imminent, which is why we welcome the USA’s convincing leadership and dedication to freedom and security in Europe in this joint effort.” 

Johnson met with the three parliamentarian leaders at the end of January, when they came to Washington advocating for the U.S. to follow through on commitments to Ukraine.

At that time, the Speaker told them he was likely to split up President Biden’s national security supplemental request under pressure from Republican critics opposed to more aid for Ukraine. 

Johnson on Wednesday unveiled four separate bills, a process intended to allow critics of aid to Ukraine to vote against it but to allow the legislation to pass. The bills also include aid to Israel and the Indo-Pacific and other national security priorities, including language that would effectively ban the social media app TikTok unless it separates itself from its Chinese company.

“History judges us for what we do,” Johnson said. “This is a critical time right now, critical time on the world stage. I could make a selfish decision and do something that’s different. I’m doing here what I believe to be the right thing. I think providing lethal aid to Ukraine is critically important.”

Johnson’s remarks were picked up by Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nausėda and Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, who put their support behind the House Speaker. 

“Agree with SpeakerJohnson: history judges us for what we do. Hope Congress will do the right thing. Ukraine needs our help now,” Kallas, posted on X. 

Johnson’s remarks underscore the heavy pressure he has faced since he was elevated to Speaker in October, when a handful of conservative Republicans succeeded in ousting then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) over a host of grievances that included opposition to more aid for Ukraine. 

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) has floated a motion to vacate that would oust Johnson, but has yet to trigger it. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) this week said he would back the motion if it is offered.

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