Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is heading to the White House as Joe Biden’s administration is stepping up pressure on Congress to provide billions more in aid to Kyiv.
The visit is intended “to underscore the United States’ unshakeable commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia’s brutal invasion,” the White House said in a statement on Sunday. “As Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, the leaders will discuss Ukraine’s urgent needs and the vital importance of the United States’ continued support at this critical moment.”
Zelenskyy’s office confirmed that he had accepted Biden’s invitation. He also has been asked to speak to a meeting of all senators.
Biden has asked Congress for a $110 billion package of wartime funding for Ukraine (€61.4 billion) and Israel, along with other national security priorities. But the request is caught up in a debate over US immigration policy and border security.
Congress already has allocated $111 billion to assist Ukraine, and Biden’s budget director, Shalanda Young, said in a letter this past week to House and Senate leaders that the US will run out of funding to send weapons and assistance to Ukraine by the end of the year, which would “kneecap” Ukraine on the battlefield.
“It’s time to cut a deal that both sides can agree to,” Young said Sunday.
The stakes are especially high for Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during two television interviews Sunday, given that “ we are running out of funding ” for the Ukrainians. “This is a time to really step up because if we don’t, we know what happens. (Russian President Vladimir) Putin will be able to move forward with impunity and we know he won’t stop in Ukraine.”
Zelenskyy will head to Washington from Buenos Aires where he witnessed the swearing-in on Sunday of Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei.
During the visit, Zelenskyy had what he described as a “frank” conversation with Hungary’s prime minister Viktor Orban, who has threatened to block more aid from the European Union to Kyiv.
Orban has also opposed starting accession talks for Ukraine to join the bloc.