Home More News Getting US to help Ukraine is EU priority, new ambassador says

Getting US to help Ukraine is EU priority, new ambassador says

Getting US to help Ukraine is EU priority, new ambassador says
The new EU Ambassador to Washington Jovita Neliupšienė of Lithuania and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser pose for a picture on March 14, 2024. Neliupšienė presented her credentials to U.S. President Joe Biden on Feb. 27, 2024. (Khalid Naji-Allah)

If Russia wins the war it launched in Ukraine more than two years ago, it could extend its border with the European Union by nearly 1,400 miles (2,235 km), or roughly the distance between New York City and Wichita, Kansas.

EU Ambassador to Washington Jovita Neliupšienė

That’s why European Union Ambassador to the United States Jovita Neliupšienė, who presented her credentials to President Joe Biden on February 27,  considers the war in Ukraine the most serious issue she has had to deal with since she started in the role, and an existential security threat to the EU, she said.

“Ukrainians are fighting not only for their destiny, but they are fighting for their freedom, sovereignty and territorial integrity” said the native of Lithuania, which, with its Baltic neighbors Estonia and Latvia, was annexed by the Soviet Union at the end of World War II. Lithuania remained part of the USSR until 1990, while Latvia and Estonia regained independence in 1991.

“On top of that, they (Ukrainians) are fighting for us. Because if there is anyone who can stop Russia, it’s Ukrainians,” Neliupšienė said at a meet-and-greet with Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on March 14.

Victory for Moscow could give Russia borders with EU member states Hungary, Slovakia and Romania, and extend its border with Poland. It already shares borders with Estonia, Finland, Latvia and Lithuania.

Not supporting Ukraine is not an option for the 27-member EU, which has provided 150 billion euros to Ukraine, 40 billion euros of which is for defense.

“But Ukraine will not stand only (with European) support,” she said. “They need really strong support, especially for their defense, from the U.S.”

A big part of Neliupšienė’s job is making Congress aware that U.S. support is needed to defend Ukraine and hold off the Russian threat.

Not helping Ukraine now will result in “much more complicated… painful” consequences later for the United States and its European allies, she said.

But House Republicans have refused since October to pass a new aid package for Ukraine, an obstinance that some analysts and diplomats, including former U.S. Ambassador to Moscow Michael McFaul, say has helped Russia .

‘We cannot let people starve’

Turning her attention to Gaza, Neliupšienė welcomed the international effort to open a maritime passage from Cyprus for food aid deliveries to the strip of territory.

That maritime route was shut down two weeks after Neliupšienė spoke when seven aid workers from Australia, Poland, the United Kingdom, a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen and a Palestinian, were killed in an Israeli drone strike in central Gaza after delivering food for World Central Kitchen.

Days earlier, a senior U.S. State Department official told Reuters that famine is “quite possibly” present in parts of northern Gaza. Several media outlets, including NPR, The Economist, The Guardian and the United Nations’ news service, said famine in Gaza was manmade, caused by the relentless fighting between Israel and Hamas since the deadly Oct. 7 terror attacks on Israel.

“In the modern world, in the world of today, we cannot let people starve,” Neliupšienė said. “So I’m really happy to see that … (the) U.S., EU, Cyprus and other European countries are actually joining together to make sure that the maritime passage for humanitarian support is there.”

The EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said the attack on the aid workers reinforced the need for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

The EU thinks the “only way to guarantee security and stability” in the Middle East is a two-state solution, where Israel exists side-by-side with an independent Palestinian state, Neliupšienė said.

“Israeli self-defense should be based on humanitarian and international law,” she said, adding that the EU will “continue to push for the ceasefire, release of the hostages and the implementation of humanitarian law.”

Bowser on Gaza war protests

A Jewish man in New York takes part in a pro-Palestine protest in Times Square, Oct. 13, 2023. (Alfonso Lozano del Rey/Shutterstock)

Protesters calling for a cease-fire in Gaza and rallying against Israeli policies toward the Palestinians have snarled commutes in Chicago and New York, major airports in New York and Los Angeles, disrupted proceedings on Capitol Hill, clashed with police in Washington, D.C., and rallied in dozens of other cities in the United States. President Joe Biden has faced “protest votes” in primary elections in some states over the United States’ seemingly unwavering backing of Israel. There have been rallies against anti-Semitism, too, as it rises in reaction to the Israeli response to the October 7 attacks.

But Bowser refused to comment on protests in Washington, saying she didn’t think foreign policy fell under the purview of American mayors—even those in charge of what many call the capital of the free world.

“Mayors are responsible for a lot of things, but foreign policy is not one of them,” she said. “I rely on President Biden and the entire team to advance foreign policy that is both humane and brings security to the region. And I think that’s in our long-term best interest,” she said.

On a personal level, however, she said, “The humanitarian crisis demands action.”

Mayor for embassy staff

The District welcomes all new ambassadors, and encourages their input into local projects, Bowser said. But interactions between the D.C. mayor’s office and the diplomatic community don’t stop at the ambassador level.

Bowser considers herself the mayor of embassy staff in D.C., she said. “Many of them are D.C. residents. They have children in our schools. They have parking issues, trash, you name it, that any other resident has had. So we are here to support them so they have a great stay.” 

As for Neliupšienė, Bowser said she brings “the sensibility of a female leader” to the key diplomatic role in Washington, “which to me just means you roll up your sleeves and go to work.”

“You don’t get a job like this without being an outstanding diplomat with incredible credentials and the ability to … advance some pretty serious issues for both the EU and the world,” Bowser said.





Karin Zeitvogel

Karin Zeitvogel started her journalism career at the BBC World Service and has worked since then for international media outlets and organizations including Agence France-Presse, U.N. agencies, Voice of America, RIA Novosti and the National Institutes of Health. She's lived in nine countries, speaks fluent French and German, good Spanish and a smattering of other languages.