Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will travel to Washington, DC on Monday for meetings at the White House and the United States Capitol as right-wing US Republicans resist efforts to send more money to support Ukraine’s response to Russia’s full-scale invasion.
In a statement on Sunday, the White House said US President Joe Biden had invited Zelenskyy to discuss the “vital importance” of continued US support for Ukraine’s defence and the “urgent needs” it faces.
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Zelenskyy is also expected to address US senators on Tuesday morning.
An aide for US House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson said Zelenskyy would also hold a private meeting with Johnson who has been trying to link Ukraine aid to immigration reforms at the US’s southern border.
The meetings come as Biden attempts to rally support for a $106bn military aid plan mostly for Ukraine and Israel, which Republicans blocked last week after walking out of a classified briefing on Ukraine amid demands for border reforms.
Zelenskyy’s office confirmed the planned meeting with Biden, adding that key areas of discussion would include defence cooperation between the US and Ukraine, “particularly through joint projects on the production of weapons and air defence systems, as well as the coordination of efforts between our countries in the coming year”.
Biden has warned of the risk of weakening US support for Ukraine and Shalanda Young, head of the White House Office of Management and Budget, reiterated those concerns on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday.
“What happens if Putin marches through Ukraine, what’s next? NATO countries, our sons and daughters, are at risk of being a part of a larger conflict,” she told the programme.
Republicans remained sceptical, however, with Senator JD Vance, a close ally of former US President Donald Trump who is campaigning for election again in 2024, dismissing the idea that the Russian president would put other NATO countries at risk.
He told CNN on Sunday that he was opposed to what he termed a “blank cheque” for Ukraine.
“What’s in America’s best interest is to accept Ukraine is going to have to cede some territory to the Russians and we need to bring the war to a close,” Vance said. Russia occupies about a fifth of Ukrainian territory.
The funding row comes amid signs of fraying Western resolve on Ukraine after Kyiv’s much-heralded June offensive failed to make significant headway and Russia deploys more troops and steps up aerial attacks on Ukraine’s infrastructure as temperatures drop to freezing.
On Monday, Ukraine’s Air Force said air defences shot down eight Russian missiles aimed at Kyiv early on Monday with the falling debris injuring at least two civilians.
The White House said Biden’s meeting will come at a vital moment, “as Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine”.
The US State Department announced last week a stopgap $175m tranche of new aid for Ukraine on Wednesday, including HIMARS rockets, shells, missiles and ammunition.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted on Sunday that “Ukraine has done an extraordinary job” defending itself.
“The choice is very clear,” he said on ABC. “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 said.