Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky plans to make his second wartime visit to Washington on Thursday, meeting with President Biden and congressional lawmakers as he tries to preserve his country’s most critical source of funding and weapons.
Mr. Biden will seek to get a “battlefield perspective” on the war from Mr. Zelensky, said John F. Kirby, a White House spokesman. The Ukrainian president, who was in New York this week to rally support at the U.N. General Assembly, also plans to visit the Capitol and the Pentagon.
The visit comes at a crucial time in the war, as Ukraine’s fight against Russian invaders heads into the harsh winter months.
But it also comes as polls have detected growing war weariness among the American public, focused on domestic issues, and as dozens of Republicans say they oppose Mr. Biden $24 billion for additional military and humanitarian spending. aid to Ukraine.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, whose position is threatened by a far-right faction of his party opposed to aid to Ukraine, plans to have a private meeting with Mr. Zelensky, but will not convene forum so he can address members on Thursday.
“Where is the accountability for the money we have already spent? Mr McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday. “What is the plan for victory? I think that’s what the American public wants to know.
Mr. Biden has made support for Ukraine a centerpiece of his foreign policy, arguing that it is vital to American national security. It continued to provide aid using previously approved funds, and Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III announced this week that U.S. M1 Abrams tanks would soon arrive in Ukraine.
Ukraine has been pushing for the United States to provide a powerful weapon called the Army’s Tactical Missile System, known as ATACMS (pronounced like “attack them”), which Mr. Kirby said, was not excluded.
ATACMS, which can strike targets 300 kilometers away with a warhead containing about 375 pounds of explosives, could help Kiev reconquer Crimea, a part of the country conquered by Russia in 2014. But the United States has expressed their fears of an escalation.
“We are trying to avoid World War III,” Mr. Biden said.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Mr. Kirby defended the weapons the United States has already supplied to Ukraine.
“We evolved our capabilities as the war evolved and needs evolved, and that had a significant impact on the Ukrainians’ ability to defend themselves and advance in this counteroffensive,” he said. -he declares.
“The progress they are making, even if it is not as far or as fast as they themselves claim, is not the result of chance. This is absolutely due in large part to their courage and skill on the battlefield. But this is also due, to a large extent, to the support that the United States has given them.”
Mr. Zelensky will encounter a different political climate than the one he experienced during his visit to Washington last year, when he received a hero’s welcome and an invitation from Nancy Pelosi, then Speaker of the House, to speak a prime-time speech to a joint session of Congress.
During that visit, Mr. Zelensky emerged from the Oval Office with Mr. Biden’s vow that the United States would continue to support Ukraine “as long as it takes.”
On Thursday, House lawmakers who want to hear directly from Mr. Zelensky will have to leave the Capitol. Members of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus and others are expected to meet with him Thursday at the National Archives.
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and majority leader, held a closed session at the Capitol for all 100 senators.
Mr. McCarthy said he planned to press Mr. Zelensky on how Ukraine spends the aid the United States has provided it so far — earlier this year, Mr. McCarthy declined Mr. Zelensky’s invitation to visit Ukraine to see for himself – as the federal government. The spending fight in Congress threatens to block the White House’s funding request and shut down the government.
Mr. Kirby said the White House was confident it would continue to have strong support for Ukraine.
“There is no such thing as a blank check for Ukraine, because everything we provide to Ukraine is done in full consultation with members of Congress,” he said.
As Mr. Biden attempts to secure new funding, the 2024 election draws closer.
Former President Donald J. Trump, the Republican’s favorite candidate, could make war a central theme of the campaign.
At a rally over the summer, he said Congress should refuse to send more weapons until the FBI, IRS and Justice Department “turn over all the evidence that “They are dealing with the corrupt business dealings of the Biden crime family.”
Polls also suggest that Americans’ support is waning. A recent CNN poll found that most Americans think Congress should not authorize more funding to support the war.
Karoun Demirjian reports contributed.