In Washington, Zelensky seeks to rally help for grueling conflict with Russia

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made an impassioned and emotional plea to Congress on Wednesday for continued American help in opposition to Russia’s unrelenting assault, talking personally and passionately about why Ukraine wanted extra support and weapons to lawmakers whose ranks embody some vocal skeptics of future reinforcements.

Zelensky’s deal with to a joint session of Congress got here after he met with President Biden throughout a rare day in Washington that marked the Ukrainian chief’s first worldwide journey since Russia invaded Ukraine 300 days in the past. The 2 projected a united entrance on the White Home, and each males issued blistering rebukes of Russia as they sought to rally help for a protracted and grueling conflict.

However Zelensky, who has discovered his closest ally in Biden, confronted a far larger problem on Capitol Hill, the place a rising variety of Home Republicans — who’re poised to take management of the chamber in January — have expressed skepticism or outright opposition to persevering with to ship extra support to Ukraine. Zelensky’s go to additionally got here as U.S. public help for sending expansive quantities of support to Ukraine has softened considerably over the previous a number of months amid rising financial anxieties.

Nonetheless, Zelensky — who donned his signature army inexperienced sweater and heavy boots — acquired a number of standing ovations from the tons of of lawmakers gathered Wednesday, at instances nearly shifting him to tears. However he instructed Congress he wants extra support and weapons to defeat Russia, and sought to persuade lawmakers that they weren’t doing Ukraine a favor — that america and different international locations had simply as a lot of a stake within the conflict as Ukraine does.

“We have artillery, yes, thank you. … Is it enough? Honestly, not really,” Zelensky mentioned. He continued: “Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.”

He added: “This battle cannot be frozen or postponed. It cannot be ignored hoping that the ocean or something else will provide protection.” Placing the main focus squarely on U.S. help, he continued: “So much depends on the world. So much in the world depends on you.”

After the speech, Home Minority Chief Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) mentioned: “My position has never changed. I support Ukraine but I never supported a blank check. We want to make sure there’s accountability for everybody, the money that is spent.” His feedback mirrored a rising consensus amongst Home Republicans who’ve demanded extra oversight of how allotted funds are used.

On the entire, lawmakers in attendance have been spirited by Zelensky’s look, giving him 18 standing ovations all through his speech. Republicans and Democrats usually cheered as they clapped, whereas Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) unfurled the Ukrainian flag and held it up with the assistance of her Democratic colleagues to visibly present Zelensky the help that exists for his nation.

However a small group of Home Republicans vital of the continuing funding to Ukraine, together with Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Matt Gaetz of Florida, didn’t clap for Zelensky when he walked onto the Home flooring and barely stood all through his speech. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), the highest critics of funding the conflict, didn’t attend.

“I attended out of respect, not agreement,” Gaetz instructed reporters after the speech.

Earlier within the day, Biden vowed to help Ukraine “as long as it takes” as the 2 leaders spoke about Russian President Vladimir Putin sharply — signaling that an finish to the preventing is nowhere in sight. Zelensky known as Putin and Russian forces “terrorists,” whereas Biden known as the Russian chief “inhumane” and mentioned Putin had made clear he had “no intention of stopping this cruel war.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and President Biden shared their hopes for peace between Russia and Ukraine in a information convention on Dec. 21. (Video: The Washington Submit)

Congress is poised to cross $45 billion in new spending for Ukraine this week in an end-of-year spending bundle. But a number of Home Republicans criticized the help bundle Wednesday or Zelensky’s go to immediately.

Republican Chip Roy of Texas known as the Ukrainian president’s deal with to Congress “political theater.”

“This is more of the theater that is being orchestrated by the current outgoing Democratic House leadership and Senate leadership,” he instructed reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.

The go to, which was deliberate with nice secrecy, got here at a key inflection level, with Zelensky’s military bracing for a brutal winter of preventing and the way forward for U.S. help for his efforts headed right into a interval of larger uncertainty. In opposition to that backdrop, each leaders got down to renew their pitch for help of Ukraine’s army efforts.

Throughout a joint information convention after assembly privately on the White Home, Biden argued that the stakes of the conflict lengthen properly past Ukraine’s borders.

“We understand in our bones that Ukraine’s fight is part of something much bigger,” Biden mentioned. “The American people know if we stand by with such blatant attacks on democracy and liberty … the world would surely face worse consequences.”

Zelensky equally forged Ukraine’s combat as a broader one which was necessary for democracies all over the world.

“I wish you to see your children alive and adults,” he mentioned through the information convention with Biden, talking in English, as he reminded folks of the variety of mother and father who had misplaced their little kids through the conflict. He added, “The main thing what I can wish you, and of course, to be together with us generally because we really fight for our common victory against this tyranny.”

The Biden administration introduced a $1.85 billion army help bundle for Ukraine on Wednesday, which incorporates the Patriot missile system, a complicated air-defense weapon that Zelensky’s authorities has lengthy coveted. The cash is separate from congressional packages.

Biden and Zelensky displayed heat and luxury round one another Wednesday, embracing upon Zelensky’s arrival and presenting one another with presents and gestures. Biden additionally at instances spoke in emotional phrases about the necessity to help Ukraine and the horrors Zelensky and his folks have endured by the hands of Putin.

The unity stood in distinction to the extra combined opinions about Ukraine support on Capitol Hill, the place there are fears that Home Republicans may pull again help once they take management in January and a brand new political dynamic takes form. Some members aligned carefully with former president Donald Trump, who’s looking for the presidency once more, have expressed skepticism or outright opposition to persevering with to help an abroad conflict.

But many different Republicans have taken a special tack and have voiced robust help for persevering with to again Ukraine with support and weaponry. “The Ukrainian people are courageous and innocent and they deserve our help,” mentioned Senate Minority Chief Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in a speech Wednesday on the Senate flooring.

Sustaining home and world help for Ukraine because the conflict drags on far longer than initially anticipated has change into a central mission of Biden’s presidency and is a microcosm of his broader overseas and home coverage framework. He usually talks of a world battle between democracy and autocracy and has highlighted related themes as he has campaigned for fellow Democrats in opposition to Republicans at dwelling and laid the groundwork for a reelection bid.

“It’s fully appropriate that Zelensky’s first trip outside his country would be to Washington,” mentioned Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group, a geopolitical consulting agency. “By far [Biden’s] most successful foreign policy has been leading the coalition in response to the Russian invasion.”

Biden struck a straightforward dynamic in his public appearances with Zelensky. The Ukrainian president arrived for a red-carpet welcome ceremony on the White Home, the place he was greeted by Biden and first girl Jill Biden. The president, carrying a blue and yellow tie — the colours of Ukraine’s flag — shook fingers with Zelensky earlier than all three posed for pictures.

Forward of the assembly, Zelensky mentioned he needed to specific his “strong appreciation” for america’ help and for Biden’s management.

“Thanks from our ordinary people to your ordinary people, Americans,” Zelensky mentioned.

Biden mentioned Putin was “escalating his assault on civilians” and making an attempt to “use winter as a weapon” earlier than remarking on Zelensky’s standing as Time journal’s Individual of the Yr.

“You are man of the year,” Biden instructed Zelensky.

Zelensky additionally offered Biden with a Ukrainian army medal that earlier within the 12 months was awarded to a Ukrainian officer for “outstanding feats on the battlefield,” in accordance with the White Home.

The officer met with Zelensky when he made an surprising go to Tuesday to Bakhmut, the location of a number of the bloodiest preventing within the conflict, and requested the Ukrainian chief to offer the medal to Biden as a token of his gratitude. The officer wrote Biden a letter, the White Home mentioned, to specific Ukraine’s appreciation for U.S. help that he mentioned saved many Ukrainians alive.

Biden mentioned the award was “undeserved but much appreciated.” He then gave Zelensky two command cash — one for the Ukrainian officer and one for Zelensky.

Biden and Zelensky have spoken for months about an in-person go to, in accordance with a White Home official who spoke on the situation of anonymity to debate inside deliberations, however they might not make it work earlier than this week due to safety issues Zelensky confronted. The US supported Zelensky’s journey to Washington, together with by offering a U.S. army plane that Zelensky flew in in a single day from Poland.

For Zelensky, the go to got here as Ukrainians are bracing for a protracted winter. Putin has employed ruthless assaults in current weeks in an effort to interrupt the Ukrainian folks, together with on electrical grids and different civilian infrastructure that has left many with out warmth, energy and water on bitterly chilly days.

Russia “is targeting critical infrastructure to make sure life is as hard as possible,” Biden mentioned. “As we head into the new year, it’s important for the American people and the world to hear directly from you, Mr. President, about Ukraine’s fight and the need to continue to stand together through 2023.”

Biden mentioned Zelensky made clear that he was open to pursuing a “just peace” however that Putin had made no such gesture. Biden and his aides have made clear they won’t drive Ukraine into any negotiation.

But Ukrainians have continued to exceed expectations of their skill to take again key cities and territories. Putin initially thought Kyiv would fall in a matter of days after he invaded the nation, however Russia needed to rapidly reduce its ambitions and give attention to the nation’s east after Ukrainian forces held them off.

Biden has labored to carry collectively the Western coalition regardless of the worldwide upheaval the conflict has prompted, and he has spent hours on the cellphone with leaders who’ve been reluctant to help Ukraine. In the course of the information convention, he sought to minimize the prospect of a fracturing alliance. European leaders haven’t indicated they’ll pull again help for Ukraine, however there was nervousness a few tough winter with rising warmth costs aggravated by the conflict.

Putin “thought he could break NATO, he thought he could break the West, he thought he could be welcomed by the Ukrainian people who were Russian-speaking,” Biden mentioned. “He was wrong, wrong and wrong.”

Biden has developed an in depth relationship with Zelensky that has at instances been contentious, notably because the Ukrainian chief has privately and publicly pressured america and European nations to do extra. The US, nonetheless, has far eclipsed all of its allies within the quantity of support and weapons it has despatched.

The U.S. president had been taking a look at an end-of-year alternative to host Zelensky, notably because the White Home and Congress have been working to cross and approve giant army and financial support packages, the White Home official mentioned.

The White Home needed to ship a “strong signal” that america is dedicated to persevering with to help Zelensky, the official mentioned, together with by saying the safety bundle and Patriot missile battery.

The bundle Biden introduced Wednesday will convey complete U.S. army help for Ukraine to $21.9 billion for the reason that starting of the Biden administration — a determine that dwarfs the extent of army help from all different European international locations.

In Europe, the highest suppliers of army help are Britain, which has dedicated to $3.29 billion in weapons and army financing; Germany, at $2.4 billion; and Poland, at $1.9 billion, in accordance with the Kiel Institute for the World Financial system.

Europe’s choices to Ukraine are extra substantial when calculating total authorities help, which incorporates humanitarian support and financial help.

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a co-chair of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus and former FBI agent primarily based in Kyiv, emerged from Zelensky’s speech inspired. He mentioned he sensed from a few of his most conservative colleagues, “people you wouldn’t expect to hear from,” that they have been moved by Zelensky’s request to proceed aiding Ukraine.

As a reasonable who strives for bipartisanship, Fitzpatrick mentioned it’s his “number one priority” to verify a Home GOP majority continues to help Ukraine.

Leigh Ann Caldwell, Camila DeChalus, John Hudson and John Wagner contributed to this report.

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