Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made an urgent appeal for continued US support during high-stakes meetings with lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday, but ran into unwavering resistance from Republicans questioning the need for further assistance without tighter immigration controls.
Zelensky’s visit comes as funding for Ukraine is stalled in Congress. President Biden has requested $60 billion in new aid, but Republicans blocked a vote last week, insisting on linking the Ukraine package to border security measures.
“We stand with him against Putin’s brutal invasion. The American people stand for freedom, and they are on the right side of this fight,” said House Speaker Mike Johnson after conferring with Zelenskyy, while also accusing the Biden administration of having “insufficient” transparency around strategy and use of US funds in Ukraine.
“We need clear articulation of the strategy to allow Ukraine to win; thus far, their [White House] response has been insufficient,” Johnson said.
He also stressed that US national security must come first in any security spending program, citing the need to secure the border with Mexico.
Johnson said chances for a deal on extra Ukraine funding remain virtually nil without a “transformative change” on border enforcement from Biden, as well as “clarity” on what the US is doing in Ukraine and “proper oversight” on the spending of US aid.
In a post on Twitter (X), Zelenskyy said he had a “friendly and candid conversation” with the Senate, and “informed members of the US Senate about Ukraine’s current military and economic situation, the significance of sustaining vital US support, and answered their questions.”
Zelensky’s meetings with the Republican-controlled House and Senate come at a pivotal moment, with Biden officials warning current US assistance funds for weapons transfers and budgetary support will be exhausted by year-end without fresh congressional approval.
The new $50 billion White House request aims to ensure Ukraine can continue repelling Russian attacks through 2023. Zelensky warned during his last US visit in September that failure to sustain assistance would cede momentum to Russia: “If we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war.”
The US Congress has not yet approved Biden’s request due to the opposition of some Republicans.
On 6 December, a bill to provide assistance to Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan failed a procedural vote in the Senate. Ahead of the vote, Zelenskyy canceled his scheduled online appearance amid partisan bickering.
According to Reuters’ sources, the Biden administration is considering concessions on migration policy in order to secure new aid for Ukraine and Israel in the supplemental funding bill.
Zelensky came to Washington hoping his personal appeal could break the logjam. But despite warm public rhetoric, his closed-door reception on Capitol Hill plainly that Republican lawmakers currently view hardline immigration measures – not solidarity with Ukraine – as their top priority.