President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will use their meeting Thursday to press for sustained support to counter Russia’s war machine — with allies fearing that the conflict will drag on for years — just as hardline Republicans are threatening to halt additional aid.
Zelenskyy plans a pair of meetings with Biden in the late afternoon and one with military leaders at the Pentagon, yet the success of his trip hinges on his morning visit to Capitol Hill, where he’ll try to rally support for a new weapons package in exchanges with lawmakers from both chambers and both parties.
Far-right representatives, who represent a small but crucial bloc of the Republican majority in the US House, have increasingly called for the US to end assistance to Ukraine, saying the funding antagonizes Russian President Vladimir Putin, could be better spent domestically, or should instead be devoted to bolstering Taiwan’s defenses.
Freezing new aid has become a ransom demand in the broader clash over government spending and conservative Republicans’ efforts to challenge House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
White House officials said they believed the vast majority of both Republicans and Democrats support additional assistance and were optimistic that Zelenskyy’s presence could help quell the opposition.
“As we get closer towards the end of the year, it gets a lot tougher to maneuver on the ground, and frankly, it’s tougher to conduct air operations as the weather gets worse heading into December,” President Zelenskyy about what he’s facing in this counteroffensive,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Wednesday.
Yet the request also comes as Ukraine’s partners increasingly see a prolonged battle. A senior official from one European Group of Seven country said the war may last as long as six or seven more years — an assessment shared by other allies and largely based on Ukraine’s slow progress in its counteroffensive.
White House officials have expressed confidence bipartisan support for more aid still exists, especially among the leadership in both parties, but the funding question is now tied up in intra-party fighting within the GOP.
McCarthy told reporters Wednesday that Ukraine would be separate from any stopgap funding bill that would keep the government open for the next few weeks as lawmakers debate a broader package. The speaker has supported aid but said that he would ask Zelenskyy “What is the strategy to win?” and “are the resources going in the right place?”
While most Republicans have supported Ukraine aid, a band of about 70 have opposed it, and McCarthy can lose no more than four Republicans to pass any bill without Democratic votes.
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