Biden announces $200M in aid for Ukraine as Zelenskyy meets GOP skepticism in Congress

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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden announced $200 million in pre-approved aid for Ukraine after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's marathon day of meetings here on Tuesday.

The latest tranche of assistance came as the Ukrainian president visited the White House and Capitol Hill to make the case for additional U.S. support as an aid package with billions in funds for the war-torn country stalls amid partisan disagreements over immigration policies.

“We’ll continue to supply Ukraine with critical weapons and equipment as long as we can, including $200 million I just approved today in critical needed equipment, additional air defense interceptors, artillery and ammunition,” Biden said during a news conference with Zelenskyy. “But without supplemental funding, we’re rapidly coming to an end of our ability to help Ukraine respond to the urgent operational demands that it has.”

Zelenskyy, in an exclusive interview with NBC News after the news conference, said that his meetings with lawmakers were helpful in that he got a chance to offer a detailed explanation of progress in his country's war against Russia.

"I think we had a very good meeting with the senators," Zelenskyy said, surrounded by security guards in green uniforms as he left the Hall of the States building following an appearance on Fox News. "And we spoke with both parties represented. I think they didn't know all the details about what was going on in the battlefield."

"Yes, they recognized that we had really good success on the Black Sea against Russian ships, and it's very good," he continued.

Zelenskyy also described his meeting with Biden as a positive one. Asked if he believed Ukraine would win the war, he said: "Yes, of course."

Follow live updates on Zelenskyy’s U.S. visit

Zelenskyy on Tuesday spoke with lawmakers in a closed-door gathering on Capitol Hill, where there is growing GOP skepticism about providing more financial and military support for Ukraine in its war against Russia. He met with House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., who said that he had a "good meeting" and reiterated that he stands with Zelenskyy "against Putin's brutal invasion."

But Johnson also voiced concerns about Ukraine's ability to defeat Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"We need a clear articulation of the strategy to allow Ukraine to win," Johnson said after meeting with Zelenskyy. "And thus far their responses have been insufficient."

When asked later by NBC News whether Congress would approve aid for Ukraine, Johnson responded, "If they give us the border."

Republicans have pushed back against Biden’s proposed aid package, which also includes funding for Israel and U.S. border operations, unless Democrats agree to pair the aid with tougher border policies. Republicans have also asked the White House for details on wartime strategy and how the administration defines victory in Ukraine.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called Tuesday's meeting with Zelenskyy "very powerful," adding that the Ukrainian president said he needs aid "urgently" and a win for Putin could be "very dangerous" for the U.S.

"He made it clear, and we all made it clear, that if we lose, Putin wins, and this will be very, very dangerous for the United States," Schumer said.

But the meeting with senators did not appear to sway some of the Republicans who doubted U.S. interests in aiding Ukraine or insisted on changing immigration policies before considering additional aid to the country.

"I don’t think it changed the nature of the conversation here in Washington," said Sen. JD Vance, who has argued that it's in America's best interest for Ukraine to cede some of its land to end the war.

Several Republican senators brought up the negotiations over border security with Zelenskyy, according to several lawmakers who attended the meeting.

Zelenskyy did "a very good job of not getting involved — not being pulled into the discussion" on border security, said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D.

Zelenskyy has visited Washington several times, including since the war began. The Biden administration announced an approximately $325 million aid package for Ukraine after Zelenskyy’s visit in September.

The White House has warned Congress that urgent U.S. support for Ukraine is needed.

"I want to be clear: without congressional action, by the end of the year we will run out of resources to procure more weapons and equipment for Ukraine and to provide equipment from U.S. military stocks," Shalanda Young, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote Dec. 4 in a letter to Hill leaders. "There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment. We are out of money—and nearly out of time."

Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., a lead negotiator for Republicans on the proposed aid package, said Monday that "there's no way" to get the package done this week.

“Hearing their national security issues also reminds us of our national security issues, as well. This is a part of it,” Lankford said of Zelenskyy's visit. “So when we’re dealing with Ukraine, we’re dealing with Israel, we’re dealing what’s happening in the Indo-Pacific, we’re also dealing with what’s happening on our own border. We’ve got to be able to resolve that.”

Zelenskyy has shot back at opposition to additional funding for his country's fight against Russia.

“If there’s anyone inspired by unresolved issues on Capitol Hill, it’s just Putin and his slick clique,” Zelenskyy said Monday in remarks at the National Defense University in Washington. “They see their dreams come true when they see the delays or some scandals.”

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