In Washington visit, Zelensky will try to garner vital support

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky plans his second wartime visit to Washington on Thursday, meeting with President Biden and congressional lawmakers as he tries to preserve his country’s most important source of funding and weapons. Have been.

White House spokesman John F. Mr Biden would like to get a “battlefield perspective” on the war from Mr Zelensky, Kirby said. The Ukrainian president, who was in New York this week to rally support at the UN General Assembly, also plans to visit Capitol Hill and the Pentagon.

The visit comes at a critical moment in the war, as Ukraine’s fight against Russian invaders moves into the harsh winter months.

But it also comes as surveys show growing war fatigue among the American public, focused on domestic problems, and as dozens of Republicans say they want $24 billion for additional military and humanitarian aid. opposes Mr. Biden’s latest request. Aid to Ukraine.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, whose position is under threat by a far-right faction of his party that opposes aid to Ukraine, plans to hold a private meeting with Mr. Zelensky but will address members on Thursday. Will not convene a forum for them.

“Where is the accountability for the money we have already spent?” Mr McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday. “What is your plan for victory? I think that’s what the American public wants to know.”

Mr Biden has made support for Ukraine a centerpiece of his foreign policy, arguing it is vital to US national security. They have continued to provide assistance using previously approved funds, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III announced this week that American M1 Abrams tanks will soon arrive in Ukraine.

Ukraine is lobbying for the United States to supply a powerful weapon called the Army Tactical Missile System, known as ATACMS (pronounced “attack ’ems”), which Mr. Kirby said would be on the table. Was not out of.

The ATACMS, which can strike targets up to 190 miles away with a warhead carrying about 375 pounds of explosive, could help Kiev retake Crimea, a part of the country seized by Russia in 2014. But the United States has expressed fears of increasing tensions.

“We are trying to avoid World War III,” Mr Biden has said.

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mr. Kirby defended the weapons that the United States has already provided to Ukraine.

“As the war has evolved, as the needs have evolved, we have developed capabilities and that has had a significant impact on the Ukrainians’ ability to defend themselves and move forward in this counter-offensive,” he said.

“The progress they are making, although not as far or as fast as they themselves have said they want to go, is not accidental. This is of course largely due to his bravery and skill on the battlefield. But that’s also in no small way due to the support that the United States has provided them.”

Mr. Zelensky will face a different political environment than the one he faced during his visit to Washington last year, when he was greeted like a hero and received an invitation from then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to deliver a prime-time speech to the joint session. Was. Congress.

During that visit, Mr. Zelensky emerged from the Oval Office with a pledge to Mr. Biden that the United States would continue to support Ukraine “as long as necessary.”

On Thursday, House lawmakers who want to hear directly from Mr. Zelensky will have to leave Capitol Hill. Members of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus and others are expected to meet him at the National Archives on Thursday.

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and majority leader, has held a closed-door session at the Capitol for all 100 senators.

Mr McCarthy has said he plans to pressure Mr Zelensky about how Ukraine is spending the aid provided so far by the United States – earlier this year, Mr McCarthy came to see for himself. Rejected Mr Zelensky’s invitation to visit Ukraine – as a federal spending fight in Congress threatens to block the White House funding request and shut down the government.

Mr Kirby said the White House was confident it would continue to have strong support for Ukraine.

“There is no such thing as a blank check for Ukraine, because everything we are providing to Ukraine is done in full consultation with members of Congress,” he said.

As Mr Biden tries to secure new funding, the 2024 election approaches.

Former President Donald J. Trump, the favorite to become the Republican nominee, may make the war a central issue in the campaign.

At a rally over the summer, he said Congress should refuse to send any more weapons until the FBI, IRS and Justice Department “turn over every piece of evidence they have on the Biden crime family’s corrupt business deals “

Polls also show support among Americans is softening. A recent CNN poll found that a majority of Americans believed Congress should not authorize more funding to support the war.

Karoun Demirjian Contributed to the reporting.

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