With US funding for Ukraine’s defense against Russia set to end by the end of the month, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky warned the US that any wave of support for Kyiv would strengthen authoritarianism around the world.
“While the free world hesitates, dictatorships celebrate,” Zelenskyy said Monday at the National Security University in Washington, ahead of scheduled meetings with US President Joe Biden and congressional leaders on Tuesday.
Zelenskyy’s visit to the US comes at a pivotal moment in Ukraine’s war against Russian forces, who launched a full-scale invasion of the country in February 2022. Kyiv’s army performed better than expected early in the conflict and retook some of the lost territory. Aided by Western military aid, a counteroffensive to expel Moscow’s forces has stalled in recent months.
While Biden has asked Congress to provide more than $60 billion in additional funding to Ukraine to continue the fight, Republicans have resisted the request and have demanded tough new restrictions on immigration along the US southern border in exchange for passing the spending bill.
Last week, a bill that would have provided more funding to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan was defeated by Republican opposition in the Senate.
“If there’s someone on Capitol Hill who’s attracted to unresolved issues, that’s fair enough [Vladimir] Putin and his sick team,” Zelensky said of Russia’s leader on Monday. “They see their dreams come true when they see delays.”
With no easy deal in sight and no approval for additional funding, the Pentagon has begun extending its aid to Ukraine and has warned it could end entirely by the end of the year.
“Every one of you here understands what it means for a soldier to wait for ammunition: to wait weeks, months, not knowing if support will arrive,” Zelensky told the audience, which included Army officials and Lloyd Austin. Secretary.
“Every one of you with command experience knows what that means, instead of moving forward, you’re watching, waiting for armor or equipment, while your enemy gets complacent and prepares for attacks,” he said.
But with some Republicans aligned with former President Donald Trump and opposed to digging in against Ukraine aid, Zelensky’s appeals risk falling.
Ohio Republican Senator J.T. Vance said he was “offended” by Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington this week and said “America has no role in paying every beggar that comes into our country.”
“He’s here to propitiate Badger and Speaker [Mike] Johnson and Senate Republicans are abandoning our negotiations on border security to write him another blank check. . . It didn’t come to church in the middle of World War II,” Vance added.
Zelensky is scheduled to meet with House Republican Speaker Johnson and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday morning. “Border security is not a side show when it comes to keeping America safe. It’s ground zero,” McConnell said Monday.
Zelensky will then head to the White House, where Biden is making the same arguments as the Ukrainian president about the importance of not allowing a Russian victory.
“This is the perfect time to have President Zelensky in town to have these discussions because of what’s happening in Ukraine, the increased activity of the Russian armed forces as winter approaches, but also because of what’s happening on Capitol Hill,” said John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman.
On Monday afternoon, Zelenskyy received a boost from the IMF, which said it would provide another $900mn under the Ukraine programme. The fund has disbursed $4.5bn under the $15.6bn program so far this year.
Gavin Gray, the fund’s head of operations, said growth in Ukraine this year was a better-than-expected 4.5 percent, praising “Given’s strong performance despite a very challenging war environment.” The IMF predicts that the country’s growth will be 3-4 percent in 2024.
He said it was critical that the country’s donors continue to deliver funds “as promised, timely and predictably”.
“Without these resources, it will be difficult to secure the hard wins of macroeconomic and financial stability.”
But discussions about military aid are expected to take center stage at the White House and on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
Introducing the Ukrainian president, Austin said Washington was committed to Kiev’s fight to “prevent Russia from further aggression against our NATO allies,” adding that “America will not back down in defending our freedoms.”
“Despite his crimes and his isolation, Putin still believes he can outwit Ukraine, and he can outwit America. But he’s wrong,” Austin said. He added that.
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