Zelenskyy rushes to Washington to make case for continued military aid
WASHINGTON: Ukraine’s President Voldymyr Zelenskyy is arriving on Washington DC on Wednesday afternoon on a brief visit, exiting his war-ravaged country in a daring gesture at Moscow in an effort to shore up flagging support in the US for the nearly year-long war with Russia.
“On my way to the US to strengthen resilience and defense capabilities of. In particular, @POTUS and I will discuss cooperation… I will also have a speech at the Congress and a number of bilateral meetings,” Zelenskyy tweeted on Wednesday morning as word of his visit leaked out.
“I hope you’re having a good flight, Volodymyr. I’m thrilled to have you here. Much to discuss,” Biden responded a short time later, indicating Zelensky is already en route to US. This will be Zelensky’s first visit to the US, or to any country, since Russia began its invasion on February 24.
I hope you’re having a good flight, Volodymyr. I’m thrilled to have you here. Much to discuss. https://t.co/SsRdsAnSDb— President Biden (@POTUS) 1671628882000
Zelenskyy is arriving in Washington around noon EST and will meet Biden at 2pm, following which they are expected to hold a joint news conference at the White House. He will later address a joint session of US Congress, where lawmakers have packed in nearly $ 44 billion in military support for the war on Russia in a massive $ 1.7 trillion spending bill, amid deep reservation from some legislators.
Besides outlining new US assistance, Biden is also expected to announce he is sending a Patriot missile system to the Ukraine. Russia has said the delivery of Patriot missiles will lead to an “aggravation of the conflict” and does “not bode well for Ukraine.”
The Ukraine president in turn is expected to make a case for why American taxpayers, who will eventually foot the bill for the war, should continue to support his country. Zelenskyy’s wife Olena had made the case in July this year, telling US lawmakers in an address to Congress: “I’m asking you something now I would never want to ask, I am asking for weapons. Weapons that would not be used to wage a war on somebody else’s land, but to protect one’s home.”
Recent polls have shown flagging support for US military assistance to Ukraine, particularly among Republicans, who will take charge of the US House on January 20.
While support among American public for military assistance to Ukraine remains robust, Republican backing has declined to 55 percent, down from 68 percent in July and 80 percent in March.
“Expect many well deserved standing ovations when #Zelensky speaks tonight to Congress. He would not be making this trip if support in US wasn’t decreasing while Russians take out energy sources and bombard cities. This is a sales pitch to congress and public. Stick w/ Ukraine,” former White House spokesperson Jen Psaki tweeted ahead of the visit.
Expect many well deserved standing ovations when #Zelensky speaks tonight to Congress. He would not be making this… https://t.co/RFJZ0uE09I— Jen Psaki (@jrpsaki) 1671629556000
Outgoing House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will cede her seat to a Republican Speaker next month, said Zelenskyy’s visit to the Capitol “would bring honor to Congress.”