Zelenskyy returns to Washington, to say thanks, build relationships

WASHINGTON: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy returns to the US capitol on Wednesday to cement relationships with lawmakers who will vote on future aid for his country, and thank them for $175 billion already approved since Russia invaded in February 2022.
Zelenskyy, who is in Washington for this week’s Nato summit, is expected to meet with the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives and some of the committees involved in defense, spending, diplomacy and national security.
“It’s an incredibly important mission and we’ve got to stand by Ukraine,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner told Reuters.
The visit comes amid deep uncertainty about this year’s US presidential election, which pits incumbent Democrat Joe Biden, a strong supporter of aid to Ukraine, against former Republican President Donald Trump, who has expressed skepticism.
Biden’s uneven June 27 debate performance against Trump and low public approval have raised fresh doubts about his ability to win re-election or keep up with the demands of his grueling job for another 4-1/2 years.
A handful of congressional Democrats have called for Biden to step aside and let another candidate compete against Trump.
Reuters reported last month that two Trump advisers had presented him with a plan to end Russia’s war in Ukraine – if he wins the Nov. 5 election – that involves telling Kyiv it will only get more US weapons if it enters peace talks.
In Congress, dozens of Trump’s closest allies have voted repeatedly against assisting Zelenskyy’s government, although Democrats and more internationally focused Republicans have worked together to approve the $175 billion in aid.
Further assistance in doubt
Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, a close Trump ally, changed course in April – months after Biden requested the money – and allowed the House to vote on and pass $61 billion in assistance for Ukraine.
When Zelenskyy last visited Congress in December, Johnson had said he would not support Biden’s request for additional funding.
The House passed the supplemental spending package by 311 to 112, with the “no” votes coming from conservative Republicans closely allied with Trump. The vote fueled concerns Trump’s party will never approve more money for Ukraine if they take control of the House, Senate and White House in November.
However, Johnson said in his first major national security address this week that Russia poses a threat beyond Ukraine, and American voters have expressed support for the aid as he traveled around the country.
“People understand that (Russian President Vladimir Putin) would not stop if he took Kyiv. He’s a ruthless dictator in my view,” Johnson said.


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