Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has warned the United States that any hesitation in its support for Kiev will strengthen dictatorships around the world, as US funding for Ukraine’s defense against Russia is set to expire by the end of the month .
“When the free world hesitates, that’s when dictatorships celebrate,” Zelensky said Monday at the National Defense University in Washington, ahead of meetings scheduled for Tuesday with U.S. President Joe Biden and leaders. of Congress.
Zelensky’s visit to the United States comes at a pivotal moment in Ukraine’s fight against Russian forces, who launched a full-blown invasion of the country in February 2022. While Kiev’s army has done better than expected in start of the conflict and began to regain some of the lost territory With the help of Western military aid, a counter-offensive aimed at dislodging Moscow’s forces has stalled in recent months.
Although Biden has asked Congress to provide more than $60 billion in additional funds to Ukraine to continue the fight, Republicans have resisted the demand and demanded tough new immigration restrictions at the United States’ southern border. United States in exchange for passing the spending bill.
Last week, a bill providing more funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan was rejected by the Republican opposition in the Senate.
“If there is anyone who is inspired by the unresolved problems on Capitol Hill, it is (Vladimir) Putin and his sick clique,” Zelensky said Monday of the Russian leader. “They see their dreams come true when they see the delays. »
With no easy deal in sight and no additional funding approved, the Pentagon has begun rationing its aid to Ukraine and warned it could be cut off completely by the end of the year.
“Each of you here understands what it means for a soldier to wait for ammunition: to wait weeks, months, not knowing if support will come,” Zelensky told the audience, which included military officers as well as Lloyd Austin, US Department of Defense. secretary.
“Every one of you with command experience knows what it means, when instead of advancing, you just watch, waiting for armor or equipment, while your enemy sits content and prepares to the assault,” he said.
But Zelensky’s arguments are likely to fail, with some Republicans allied with former President Donald Trump and opposed to aid to Ukraine opposing it.
JD Vance, Republican senator from Ohio, said he was “offended” by Zelensky’s visit to Washington this week, and it was “not the role of the United States here to hand out money to every beggar who enters our country.
“He is here to harass and intimidate President (Mike) Johnson and Senate Republicans into abandoning our negotiations on border security in order to write him another blank check. . . it’s not Churchill coming in the middle of World War II,” Vance added.
Zelensky is scheduled to meet Tuesday morning with Johnson, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, as well as Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate. “When it comes to keeping America safe, border security is not a sideshow. This is ground zero,” McConnell said Monday.
Zelensky will then travel to the White House, where Biden made similar arguments to the Ukrainian president about the importance of not allowing a Russian victory.
“This is exactly the right time to have President Zelensky in town to discuss what is happening in Ukraine, the increased activity of the Russian armed forces as winter approaches, but also what is happening at the Capitol. » said John Kirby, spokesperson for the National Security Council.
On Monday afternoon, Zelensky received a boost from the IMF, which announced it would release an additional $900 million under its program for Ukraine. The fund has awarded $4.5 billion under the $15.6 billion program so far this year.
Gavin Gray, the fund’s mission chief, said Ukraine’s growth this year had been better than expected, at 4.5 percent, calling kyiv’s performance “strong, despite an extremely difficult war context.” . The IMF projects the country’s growth to be 3 to 4 percent for 2024.
He added that it was essential that the country’s donors continued to disburse funds “as promised, and in a timely and predictable manner.”
“Without these resources, it will be difficult to preserve hard-won gains in macroeconomic and financial stability. »
But discussions over military aid at the White House and Capitol Hill on Tuesday are expected to take center stage.
Introducing the Ukrainian president, Austin said Washington remained committed to helping Kiev fight to “deter Russia from further aggression – including against our NATO allies,” saying the United States “will not flinch in our defense of freedom.
“Despite his crimes and despite his isolation, Putin continues to believe he can survive Ukraine and America. But he’s wrong,” Austin said. “America’s commitments must be honored, America’s security must be defended. And America’s word must be kept,” he added.
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