WASHINGTON ( Associated Press) — Volodymyr Zelensky’s Washington trip to the White House was a moment for Russian President Vladimir Putin to show that the United States will remain committed to war “as long as it takes,” as the president put it. Joe Biden.
It also gave the Ukrainian president, clad in army green, the opportunity to take advantage of the grand stage on Capitol Hill to thank Congress for the billions of dollars that are keeping his country in the fight.
“As long as it takes” are weighty words, but they run up against a formidable question: How patient will the narrowly divided Congress – and the American people – be for a war with no end in sight? What is killing Horizon and the global economy?
Zelensky presented his arguments on Wednesday night. In a speech before a joint session of Congress, he equated Ukraine’s fight to maintain its sovereignty with America’s fight for independence. He compared the Battle of Bachmut, where fierce fighting raged for over a month, with the Battle of Saratoga, a turning point in the American Revolutionary War.
Zelensky, who visited the Bakhmut frontline shortly before his trip to Washington, presented members of Congress with a Ukrainian flag signed by the soldiers. And thanking America for the help, he told lawmakers that “your money is not charity.”
“This is an investment in global security and democracy that we manage in the most responsible way,” Zelensky said.
Most Americans, according to polls, continue to give aid to Ukraine because it has successfully repelled Russian armed forces that some US officials initially believed would quickly crush the Ukrainian military.
But with the help of some $21.3 billion in US military aid since the invasion began in February, the Ukrainians, though outnumbered, have managed to achieve battlefield success and inflict heavy casualties among Russian troops.
Zelensky, sitting next to Biden in the Oval Office with a fireplace blazing in the background, acknowledged that Ukraine was in better shape because of the bipartisan support it received from Congress.
“We’ve got the situation under control thanks to your support,” said Zelensky, who presented Biden with a medallion awarded to a Ukrainian captain of a Himars battery, which was shot down by the United States. Delivered was a rocket system, and the US President had what the officer wanted.
Yet with Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell both insisting that support for Ukraine is a fundamental part of American interests, bipartisan unity around Ukraine was beginning to crumble.
Republican Sen. Rick Scott said, “I hope we’re going to continue to support Ukraine, but we have to be told what they’re doing all the time.” “I think that these kinds of things have to continue to be promoted to the American public. I don’t think you can just call it a matter of time.”
Shortly before Zelensky’s arrival, the United States announced a $1.85 billion military aid package for Ukraine, including Patriot surface-to-air missiles, and Congress planned to vote on a spending bill that included Includes $45 billion in emergency military assistance for Ukraine.
Pelosi and other officials compared Zelensky to a visit by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1941 to speak with President Franklin D. Roosevelt after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
In a letter to fellow lawmakers Wednesday, Pelosi said her father, Rep. Thomas D’Alessandro Jr., was a member of the House when Churchill “won our country’s support in the fight against tyranny in Europe” the day after Christmas. Had visited Congress to do ”.
Pelosi said, “This week marks 81 years, and it is especially present for me as another heroic leader addresses Congress in a time of war, and democracy itself at stake.” Once in the lower house, Republicans take control of the House of Representatives.
Biden, who was born less than a year after Churchill’s historic visit, emphasized the enormous strength that Zelensky has shown throughout the struggle. “This man is who he says he is to the depths of his soul. It is clear who this is. He is ready to give his life for his country,” Biden told a press conference next to the Ukrainian president. announced during
In a speech on the Senate floor, McConnell argued that supporting Ukraine is only practical.
“It is morally right to maintain our support for Ukraine, but it is not only that. It is also a direct investment in the interests of the United States,” the legislator said.
However, there are signs of discontent at the Republican convention.
Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who is making a bid to become the next House speaker if Republicans take office next year, has said his party will not write a “blank check” for Ukraine once he takes office.
Some of the more right-wing members of the Republican convention have criticized McConnell for his support of Ukraine.
Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene accused McConnell on Twitter Wednesday morning of pushing a $1.7 trillion budget initiative that includes new funding for Ukraine “so I can give you a $47 billion check.” ,
“But in my district, many families and veterans cannot afford food and many businesses are in trouble because of Biden’s policies,” said Georgia Rep.
For now, Taylor Greenes are the exception rather than the norm.
Unlike other conflicts in which the United States has been directly involved over the past half century—Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan—the cost of helping Ukraine has been entirely financial.
Although the far right has begun to raise its budget skepticism, it is easier to sell Ukraine’s cause than those protracted and costly conflicts, said Elliot Abrams, who has served in senior national security and foreign relations positions. Donald Trump, George W Bush and Ronald Reagan.
“With Ukraine, I think it’s very easy to make the case that helping Kyiv resist Russian aggression is a worthwhile thing, and drawing down the Russian military is a worthwhile thing,” said Abrams, who is now Vandenberg. presides over the coalition. foreign policy. “And the cost of American life is zero.”
As the war in Ukraine stretches past 300 days, polls show Americans care less and are increasingly against aid from their own country. In September, only 18% of American adults said their country was not providing enough support to Ukraine, according to the Pew Research Center, compared with 31% in May and 42% in March.
A similar number—20%—said in September that the United States was offering too much support. About a third said the level of support was fair and about 25% said they weren’t sure.
Republicans outnumbered Democrats 3-1 in saying that support was too high: 32% to 11%.
Biden acknowledged that the past 10 months have been difficult and regretted that President Putin has shown no signs that he has the “dignity” to end the invasion. He assured Zelensky that the United States was not going anywhere.
Biden said, “You don’t need to worry, we’re with Ukraine.”
Petr Pudil, a board member of the Slovakia-based NGO Globesec, said Zelensky’s mission to keep the United States engaged is complex, but capable. A few weeks earlier, Pudil’s group helped organize a trip to Washington by Ukrainian lawmakers, where he explained that US support would be needed for some time, while assuring Congress that their efforts would not be in vain.
Pudil said, “One of Zelensky’s objectives for this visit is to convince those who are still in doubt that victory is a real option.” “But this can be done only if they provide the right support. Everyone should understand that there is a chance to win.
Associated Press writer Hannah Fingerhut contributed to this report.