In view of growing war weariness and sometimes open rejection in Washington, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyj has asked for new aid for his country. The 45-year-old met senators and representatives in the US Congress on Thursday. He said after the talks that he was grateful for the support for his country, which was attacked by Russia.
The mood in Congress has changed significantly since his last visit last year. Some Republicans reacted with resistance to the Ukrainian. He comes to Washington with specific requests for military equipment. A meeting with US President Joe Biden was also on the agenda.
Already more than 43 billion US dollars
Zelensky warned senators of the dangers if no further funding was approved for Ukraine, said Democratic Majority Leader in the US Senate Chuck Schumer. "There was a single sentence that summed it all up, and I quote it verbatim: 'If we don't get the help, we will lose the war,'" Schumer told reporters about Zelensky, according to US broadcaster CNN. His colleague from the House of Representatives, Hakeem Jeffries, agreed with him. “It is important that we stand behind Ukraine until victory is achieved,” said the top Democrat in the House of Representatives.
The Ukrainian president had already been a guest in Washington at the end of December. At that time he received a hero's welcome and spoke to both chambers of Congress to the cheers of representatives and senators. The USA is Ukraine's most important ally. Since the beginning of Russia's war of aggression, the United States says it has provided more than $43 billion in military aid to Kiev - far more than any other country. There is also extensive economic aid.
Meetings behind closed doors
But since Zelensky's visit shortly before Christmas, the political situation in Washington has changed. The Republicans have been in charge of the US House of Representatives since January and there is considerable skepticism within their ranks as to whether the US should continue to pump money on a large scale into a war with no end in sight. And so this time Zelensky met senators and representatives behind closed doors. A big speech fell through. House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy made it clear he rejected that request. "We don't have time for a joint meeting," US media quoted him as saying.
The majority of Republicans in Congress support support for Ukraine. Right-wing hardliners in particular oppose it. "The US is wasting money we don't have to pay for this war while the EU and other leaders are absent from the world stage," said Republican Senator Roger Marshall. For this reason he also stayed away from the meeting with the Ukrainian president.
Hardliners against further aid
All eyes are primarily on the House of Representatives. Unlike in the Senate, the Republicans have a majority in this chamber of parliament - but only a narrow one. This gives the hardliners in the party who oppose further aid to Ukraine particularly great power. They are putting pressure on their chairman, McCarthy, and driving him along. This is currently evident in the annual dispute over a new budget, which is also important for Ukraine.
In this context, the Democratic US President Biden had requested a new billion-dollar sum for Ukraine from Congress. It is unclear how his request will be granted. A new federal budget must be approved by the end of September, otherwise there is a risk of a “shutdown” - i.e. a standstill in government business. A bitter dispute is raging within the Republicans about this - it involves various differences, including new aid to Ukraine.