Zelensky returns to Washington to press Ukraine's case

The fight against Russia is expensive, and hesitation on Capitol Hill has been mounting.

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky

After two days in New York, where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly and sharply condemned Russia’s invasion of the nation he leads, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived in Washington to meet with President Biden and lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

It was Zelensky’s second visit to the American capital since his nation was invaded in early 2022. Nearly a year after his address to Congress last December, political and military realities have shifted, making for a more challenging mission.

Zelensky made three stops in Washington before departing for the Canadian capital of Ottawa.

Read more on Yahoo News: Zelensky to face challenges in Washington visit, via Associated Press

Fractures on Capitol Hill

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Zelensky listens to President Biden speak during an expanded bilateral meeting in the East Room of the White House on Thursday.

Zelensky started his day in Washington by meeting House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries. And although he addressed the Senate, an audience with the House was denied.

“Zelensky asked us for a joint session; we just didn’t have time,” McCarthy explained, though it seemed he was bending — not for the first time — to the Trump wing in his party who don’t see aiding Ukraine as an U.S. priority.

Still, Zelensky can be encouraged by the fact that most (though not all) mainstream Republicans remain supporters, as do virtually all Democrats.

“We need to give them everything they need,” said Rep. Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He said that he not only endorsed Biden’s $24 billion aid request to Congress but wanted to provide Ukraine with high-powered weaponry the White House has been reluctant to send for fear of provoking the Kremlin into a broader confrontation.

Read more on Yahoo News: Ukraine, Russia and the tense U.N. encounter that almost happened — but didn't, via the Associated Press

Show of unity at the Pentagon

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, left, with Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska at the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, left, with Zelensky and his wife, Olena Zelenska, at the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.

After leaving Capitol Hill, Zelensky traveled over the Potomac River to visit the Department of Defense, where he met with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

Ukraine cannot sustain its defense against Russia’s vastly bigger military without sophisticated American weaponry. At the same time, Zelensky has argued that Ukraine cannot win — that is, expel Russia — without more powerful weaponry, delivered more rapidly.

In its summary of the meeting between Austin and Zelensky, the Pentagon said they “discussed Ukraine’s long-term capability requirements and how support from the United States and other partners will help build a more robust Ukrainian force, capable of defending Ukraine for years to come.”

Read more on Yahoo News: Austin says Ukraine will receive Abrams tanks 'soon,’ via the Kyiv Independent

White House generosity has limits

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Biden and Zelensky at the White House on Thursday.

For the second time since the war began, Biden and Zelensky met in the Oval Office, making for an image that, on its own, projects a show of support for Ukraine from the world’s most powerful nation.

The reality, though, is somewhat more complex.

Ahead of the meeting, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the next aid package would include “significant air defense capabilities.” But he also added that Biden was not prepared to provide Zelensky with the ballistic missile systems known commonly by their acronym, ATACMS, that he has long sought.

A new book about the Biden administration describes how, before the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian and American president held each other in low regard. But even though Biden and Zelensky have little in common either culturally or temperamentally, both have worked to always show a united front against Russia.

Speaking from the White House, Zelensky thanked Biden for “very productive, strong negotiations.”

Read more on Yahoo News: Joe Biden tells President Zelensky the world is behind Ukraine, via Evening Standard