NATO Chief Sides With Mike Johnson Against Joe Biden

nato chief sides with mike johnson against joe biden

U.S. President Joe Biden (L) stands next to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO-Ukraine Council during the NATO Summit in Vilnius on July 12, 2023.

The U.S. should not prohibit Ukraine from using American weapons to target Russian territory, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has said. The position clashes with U.S. President Joe Biden but is backed in Washington by prominent lawmakers, including House Speaker Mike Johnson.

Without mentioning the U.S. by name, the secretary general of the alliance told The Economist that "the time has come for allies to consider whether they should lift some of the restrictions" placed on their supply of arms to Ukraine.

A Ukrainian delegation reportedly travelled to Washington, D.C. this month to make the case for Kyiv to use American weapons to strike at targets within Russia, which is currently prohibited under a U.S. stipulation aimed at avoiding escalation.

Ukraine relying on domestically-produced drones on Russian territory has been a sore point for Kyiv, especially since May 10 when Moscow launched an offensive in the northeast Kharkiv region, pushing six miles past the border.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has pleaded with the U.S. to change its stance as Russia exploits Kyiv's ammunition and troop shortages ahead of a wait for the further delivery of aid just passed by Congress.

"To deny Ukraine the possibility of using these weapons against legitimate military targets on Russian territory makes it very hard for them to defend themselves," Stoltenberg told the newspaper. When contacted by Newsweek for a response to the NATO chief's comments, the U.S. State Department declined to comment.

Stoltenberg's view is gaining ground in the U.S. with Speaker Johnson telling Voice of America this week that Kyiv should "prosecute the war in the way they see fit" and that the U.S. "trying to micromanage the effort there is not a good policy."

After a visit to Kyiv, Secretary of State Antony Blinken wants Ukraine to be allowed to strike inside Russian territory with American-supplied arms, The New York Times reported on May 22, citing unnamed sources.

Meanwhile, Texas Republican Representative Michael McCaul, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said there is support in Congress for ending the policy but National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and President Joe Biden still oppose the move. "Will you change this policy so Ukraine is not fighting with one hand tied behind its back," McCaul asked Blinken at a committee hearing.

On May 20, a bipartisan group of congressmen urged the Pentagon to change the restriction. Lithuania's Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told French TV station LCI on May 20 that restrictions such as those imposed by the U.S. on using long-range ATACMS missiles inside Russia were a "mistake."

German lawmaker Anton Hofreiter told Der Spiegel the U.S. could allow Ukraine to use American weapons to target Russian territory under international law, which allows a state under attack to target "the aggressor's country."

In his interview, Stoltenberg differentiated between allowing Western weapons to be used in the way Kyiv chose to and direct NATO involvement, which was mooted by French President Emmanuel Macron.

"We don't have any intention to send NATO ground troops into Ukraine," the NATO chief told The Economist, because its purpose is to back Kyiv and "ensure that we don't escalate this into a full-scale conflict."

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