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European officials say Ukraine needs more aid to regain advantage over Russia

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine is about to enter its third year. It's a war of attrition. Ukrainian troops are running out of ammunition, and the country is looking to its allies for help. That help from the U.S. is stalled. Although the Senate sent a message of support to Ukraine yesterday, advancing a bill that would provide $60 billion in aid for Kyiv. Leaders in the European Union will be watching closely as American lawmakers in the House debate the legislation, which also includes military aid for Israel and Taiwan, as well as humanitarian aid for Gaza. To get the European Union perspective, I'm joined by Stefano Sannino. He's secretary general of the EU's European External Action Service and Italy's former ambassador to Spain. Good morning, ambassador. Thanks for being on the program.

STEFANO SANNINO: Good morning.

FADEL: I want to start with the more than $50 billion appropriation from Europe to Ukraine. It sounds like a lot, but Johan Van Overtveldt, the chair of the European Parliament's Budgets Committee, says it won't be sufficient. Do you agree with that assessment, and will Europe send more money to Ukraine?

SANNINO: Well, first of all, this 50 billion euros is on the top of a previous assistance, which is bringing our overall assistance to more than $150 billion.

FADEL: Yeah.

SANNINO: So it's a substantial amount of money. The second thing is that we do hope and are following very closely what is happening here in Washington, that the United States will continue also supporting our effort, the overall global effort. I think that the reasons that we're behind, our support to Ukraine are still there. We are trying to counter the aggression of a country against another country whose only fault was to fight for its democracy and for the possibility of a better future.

FADEL: The House here in the U.S. has yet to weigh in on this bill, but the speaker, Mike Johnson, is signaling that it will face longer odds in his chamber. If the aid package fails and money from the U.S. doesn't come through, how does that affect Ukraine and the security of Europe?

SANNINO: Well, for the moment, we still have to see which is the end of the story. So we still hope that this is not going to be the case. But as I said, European Union has been very steadfast in its support to Ukraine. We believe that this is what is at stake at the moment is not only the security and the freedom of Ukraine but also the security and freedom of the whole of the European Union against an imperialistic aggression that is coming from Russia's Putin.

FADEL: What would you say to lawmakers here in the U.S. who say they need to see more progress from Ukraine before they approve more aid? What's your message to them?

SANNINO: Well, I think that Ukrainians have done a titanic effort in order to wage this war, too, against the country and the forces, which were much bigger than their own forces, and that in the meantime, they have also gone through a very substantial reform and restructuring of the country, of their legal system, the fight against corruption. This is not the end of the story. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but they have done a very important step in this direction, and I think that this was recognized by all the 27 member states of the European Union when they decided to accept the - or start negotiation of accession for Ukraine to the EU.

FADEL: The bill that Europe - the appropriation that Europe is now giving to Ukraine was slightly delayed. There is a much longer delay in aid from the U.S. What message, in your estimation, what - how does this impact Ukraine's war effort, and what is the message that's sent to Russia?

SANNINO: I think that all in all, the message that we are sending - and I'm speaking here not only for the European Union, but also for the U.S. - I think that the message that we are sending is a message of support and of determination not to accept this unlawful and unjustified invasion. And it's a message that goes to the essence of what we have always fought for on the two sides of the Atlantic, that is to say, the freedom of our people and their possibility to pursue their objectives of life.

FADEL: But the delay, does that send a different message?

SANNINO: I don't think so. I mean, it's - we have all complex decision processes. I mean, you have your complexity on this side of the Atlantic. We have our complex on this side of the Atlantic. But then what matters, I think, is the result and the fact that for two years, we have been close to the Ukrainians. We have been able to pass a number of sanctions package, which is unprecedented. We have been able to support them financially, economically and militarily.

FADEL: We'll have to leave it there. Stefano Sannino is secretary-general of the EU's European External Action Service. Thank you for your time.

SANNINO: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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