Failure to pass Ukraine funding bill would be “greatest Christmas gift” to Putin, Biden says during Zelenskyy visit

By admin Dec13,2023

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy offered a united front Tuesday, as the pair made a renewed push for Congress to approve more aid for Ukraine before the end of the year. 

Mr. Biden announced he’s signed an additional $200 million in drawdown funds for Ukraine, but said U.S. funds will dry up — fast. During a joint press conference alongside Zelenskyy at the White House Tuesday, Mr. Biden said, “Ukraine will emerge from this war proud, free, and firmly rooted in the West — unless we walk away.” 

“The decisions we make now are going to determine the future for decades to come, particularly in Europe,” Mr. Biden said in a meeting with Zelenskyy Tuesday afternoon. “And this is one of those moments. Congress needs to pass the supplemental funding for Ukraine before they break for the holiday recess, before they give [Vladimir] Putin the greatest Christmas gift they could possibly give him.”

Zelenskyy began his trip to Washington with meetings on Capitol Hill, where he met with senators and House Speaker Mike Johnson to push for more aid. Republicans have demanded stricter border security measures and immigration policy changes in exchange for more funding for Kyiv. GOP senators leaving the meeting expressed support for Zelenskyy, but said the Biden administration must still agree to immigration changes before they agree to another round of assistance.

Despite the sharp disagreements on Capitol Hill, Mr. Biden insisted there is still “strong” bipartisan support for Ukraine. 

“There is strong bipartisan political support for Ukraine — a small number of Republicans who don’t want to support Ukraine, but they don’t speak for the majority of even Republicans, in my view,” Mr. Biden said during the press conference. “We’re in negotiations to get funding we need, not to promise — not making promises, but hopeful we can get there, and I think we can.” 

Biden US Ukraine
President Joe Biden shakes hands with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as they meet in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2023, in Washington.

Evan Vucci / AP

A Democratic bill with billions of dollars for Ukraine failed to pass the Senate last week, and the prospects for reaching a deal before year’s end appear slim. The Office of Management and Budget has warned that U.S. funding for Ukraine will run dry by the end of the month. Lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for their holiday break this week.

While many Senate Republicans support arming Ukraine, some GOP members in the House have grown skeptical, demanding improved metrics and accountability while insisting that U.S. border security should be the priority. After a briefing on Ukraine on Tuesday, Rep. Mike Waltz tweeted: “Just left a closed-door briefing on Ukraine — still NO CLEAR STRATEGIC GOAL outlined by the Biden Administration.”

Asked by a reporter to clarify his administration’s strategy on Ukraine, Mr. Biden said: We want to see Ukraine win the war, and as I’ve said before, winning means Ukraine is a sovereign, independent nation that can afford to defend itself today and deter further aggression. That’s our objective.” 

The $200 million drawdown of weapons for Ukraine is a relatively small package that includes essentials like 105mm and 155mm artillery rounds and HIMARS munitions. This year, the administration is having to dole out small tranches of assistance as it stretches the remaining funding. That stands in contrast to last year, when the U.S. pledged a $1 billion drawdown with a Patriot battery to Ukraine on the day Zelenskyy visited the White House.    

The U.S. intelligence community estimates that Russia has lost the majority of its pre-2022 military personnel to death or injury since the war began, according to a source familiar with the figures, which were recently briefed to Capitol Hill. Before 2022, Russia’s military had 360,000 personnel, and of those, 315,000 have been lost in Ukraine. Russia has also lost 2,200 of the 3,500 tanks it had before 2022, forcing Moscow to draw on large stocks of Soviet-era equipment in storage, such as T-62 tanks last produced in the 1970s.

On Tuesday, Zelenskyy dismissed the possibility of ceding any territories to Russia to end the war as “insane.” 

“We are talking about human beings,” Zelenskyy said, through a translator. “They are being tortured, they are being raped, and they are being killed. And those voices which offer to give up our territories, they offer as well to give up our people. That’s not a matter of territory, that’s a matter of lives, of families, of children, of their histories.”  

Zelenskyy last visited Washington in September, when he thanked Congress for its help and requested more aid. 

“I hope that the U.S. Congress will continue to take important decisions to provide financial assistance to Ukraine,” Zelenskyy tweeted after his September visit. “Oversight, transparency, and accountability for all the aid is absolutely important and imperative.”

By admin

Related Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *