Biden invites Zelenskiy to the White House in bid to secure more aid for Ukraine

The visit on Tuesday comes after Republicans refused to approve a funding package that included $61 billion for Kyiv

Biden invites Zelenskiy to the White House
U.S. President Joe Biden (r) receives the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in the Oval Office of the White House on September 21.Evan Vucci (AP)
Miguel Jiménez

U.S. President Joe Biden has invited the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to a meeting at the White House on Tuesday, December 12, in a bid to pressure Congress into approving additional aid to support Ukraine in the war against Russia. With the meeting, Biden aims to “underscore the United States’ unshakeable commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia’s brutal invasion,” according to a statement from White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

“As Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, the leaders will discuss Ukraine’s urgent needs and the vital importance of the United States’ continued support at this critical moment,” read the statement.

Zelenskiy’s visit comes as Biden’s aid package for Ukraine remains blocked by Congress. The U.S. president presented a nearly $106 billion funding package, which includes $61 billion for Ukraine, as well as funds for Israel and Taiwan and to address the situation on the Mexican border. Last Wednesday, the Senate voted against the package, despite Biden’s appeals. The U.S. president also held a videoconference last Wednesday with G-7 leaders to discuss the importance of supporting Kyiv.

The U.S. Congress has already allocated $111 billion to help Ukraine. In a letter to the House of Representatives and the Senate, Biden’s budget director, Shalanda Young, warned last week that the United States will run out of funding to send weapons and assistance to Ukraine by the end of the year, if the package is not approved.

Zelenskiy was meant to attend two closed-door videoconferences with the U.S. Senate and Congress last Tuesday to call for financial aid, but did not show up or provide an explanation for his absence. The Ukrainian president’s visit to Washington comes at a delicate moment with the international community becoming increasingly reluctant to provide aid and Ukraine facing internal divisions with the war grinding to a stalemate ahead of winter.

In the Republican Party, there is growing skepticism about whether the multimillion-dollar aid from the U.S. is having an impact on a conflict that is about to mark its second anniversary and shows no sign of coming to an end. The Republicans say they will only approve aid to Ukraine if funds are invested into strengthening the U.S.-Mexico border, a proposal that Democrats oppose.

In a television interview, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken indicated that Biden is willing to make important concessions to move forward with the aid package. “It is something that the president is fully prepared to engage on,” Blinken said. “We need to see this supplemental budget request go through as quickly as possible. Ukraine has done an extraordinary job in defending against this Russian aggression. Over the past year, it’s taken back more than 50% of its territory. It’s engaged in a ferocious battle right now along the eastern and southern fronts. We are running out of resources already in the bank to continue to assist them, and we need them,” he told the ABC program This Week on Sunday.

Reinvestment in the United States

Blinken has stressed that close to 90% of the security aid that Washington provides to Ukraine is invested in the United States, in the production of materials, ammunition and weapons. “It’s right here, in America, with good jobs,” he said. “The choice is very clear. If we do this and help Ukraine sustain the achievements that it’s made, help ensure that Russia continues to suffer a strategic failure in Ukraine, that’s one route to go. The other route to go is to do something that the only people who are rooting for it are in Moscow and maybe in Tehran and Beijing, which is not to provide this assistance,” he told the program.

Ohio Republican Senator J.D. Vance said in another interview this Sunday on CNN that the Biden administration has yet to justify additional aid to Ukraine. “What we’re saying to the president, and really to the entire world, is you need to articulate what the ambition is, what is $61bn going to accomplish that $100bn hasn’t,” Vance said.

For his part, Utah Senator Mitt Romney, also a Republican, expressed his support for aid to Ukraine in an interview with NBC. “My own view is that it’s very much in America’s interest to see Ukraine successful and to provide the weapons that Ukraine needs to defend itself. Anything other than that would be a huge dereliction of our responsibility, I believe, to the world of democracy but also to our own national interest,” he said. At the same time, he insisted that there is bipartisan agreement on the need to secure the U.S.-Mexico border and address the record number of migrants crossing into the United States.

According to The Guardian, allies of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán will meet with Republicans in Washington next week to press for an end to U.S. military support for Ukraine. Members of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs and staff of the Hungarian embassy in Washington will begin a two-day meeting organized by the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation on Monday.

Zelenskiy was in Buenos Aires on Sunday to attend the inauguration of Javier Milei, the new president of Argentina, on what was the Ukrainian leader’s first trip to Latin America. The Ukrainian president — who has been calling on developing countries to provide assistance — took advantage of the trip to Argentina to meet with several leaders. On the way to Buenos Aires, Zelenskiy met with the prime minister of Cape Verde and once in Argentina, he held bilateral meetings with the presidents of Paraguay, Ecuador, and Uruguay.

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