President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky sought to project their unified front at the White House on Thursday as the two leaders made the case for continued U.S. aid to Ukraine in its war against Russia amid a backdrop of GOP infighting on the matter on Capitol Hill.
Biden hosted Zelensky at the White House as the Ukrainian president made the rounds in Washington, including meeting with Republicans on Capitol Hill who have been skeptical of funding for Ukraine’s war effort.
“Today I’m in Washington to strengthen our coalition to defend Ukrainian children, our families, our homes, freedom and democracy in the world,” Zelensky said in an Oval Office meeting with Biden. “And I started my day in the U.S. Congress to thank its members and the people in America for rolling big, huge support. I felt trust between us. It allowed us to have frank and constructive dialogue.”
Zelensky said he and Biden would discuss weapons being sent to Ukraine “with a special emphasis on air defense.”
It marked the second time in the past year the two men have met at the White House, since Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Biden also traveled to Ukraine in February of this year to meet with Zelensky in Kyiv.
“The people of Ukraine have shown enormous bravery,” Biden said at the start of the meeting Thursday.
Backdropping the Ukrainian president’s stop in Washington is a supplemental funding request the Biden administration sent to Congress last month that would include another $24 billion in military, humanitarian and financial assistance for Ukraine.
The U.S. has already provided billions of dollars in aid to Ukraine, with Biden making the argument on the world stage that Russia’s invasion is a threat to democracy globally, and that Russian President Vladimir Putin would look to invade another country if it takes or carves up Ukraine.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said that he would like to see the $24 billion supplemental request for Ukraine be brought to a vote as a stand-alone bill, as opposed to attaching it to additional government funding that Ukraine’s supporters feel would allow the assistance to more easily pass through a narrowly divided Congress.
But a minority of Republicans in Congress and some leading presidential candidates, including former President Trump, have pushed back on continued funding for Ukraine, arguing it is not in the United States’s interests to be sending money to the war-torn nation to fight Russia.
Hours before Zelensky arrived on Capitol Hill, more than two dozen Republican lawmakers wrote to Biden saying they oppose additional spending for Ukraine, asking questions about where the money’s going and whether Kyiv is making progress against Russia.
Zelensky also made a stop Thursday to the Pentagon. Earlier this week, Zelensky was in New York City for the annual United Nations General Assembly gathering to make his case to the international community for continued support.
Zelensky arrived at the White House to an honor guard lining the driveway, and the president and first lady Jill Biden standing outside waiting for him and Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska.
The Ukrainian president exited a vehicle in front of the South Portico, where the Bidens were standing, and the four of them stood in a line together for a few minutes.
“Very important,” Zelensky said to a shouted question about how important the visit is as the two couples posed for photographs.