WASHINGTON — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleaded for additional U.S. military aid in a speech here Monday, part of an eleventh-hour effort this week to secure funding before the U.S. runs out of money to assist Ukraine’s war effort.
“Ukrainians haven’t given up and won’t give up. We know what to do and you can count on Ukraine and we hope just as much to be able to count on you,” Zelenskyy said in remarks at the National Defense University as the White House boosts pressure on Congress to pass more aid to Ukraine.
“Every one of you here understands for a soldier to wait for munitions, waiting for weeks, months, without knowing if support will come at all,” he said. “Every one of you with command experience knows what it means when instead of moving forward, you’re just watching, waiting for armor or equipment while your enemy is satisfied and preparing for assaults.”
Zelenskyy argued that Russia’s “dreams come true when they see delays or some scandals” on Capitol Hill because it means Ukraine has to wait longer for U.S. assistance.
The Senate has been divided over the package first requested by Biden, which would also include aid to Israel. Republicans insist that provisions on U.S. border security be wrapped in, but negotiations with Democrats have not led to an agreement.
Follow live updates on Zelenskyy’s U.S. visit
The Ukrainian president laid out his country’s achievements in the war against Russia so far, including regaining 50% of the territory Russia recaptured at the beginning of the war. He thanked the U.S. for the aid it’s provided so far, which Zelenskyy has said has helped protect his citizens from missile attacks.
“We are working with President Biden — and I’m very thankful for him — so that Ukraine and the U.S. can produce weapons together, necessary for protecting, protecting freedom,” he said.
Zelenskyy emphasized that expanding Ukraine’s air defense and abilities in the sky is key to removing Russia’s air advantage.
“Ukraine is the first front,” Zelenskyy said, “But we’ve got to make sure, and we can make sure, it doesn’t come to having a second or third front against freedom somewhere in the Baltic countries, or another part of the world.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin introduced Zelenskyy before his speech and said that the U.S. is “determined to help Ukraine consolidate and extend its battlefield games and to build a future force that can ward off Russian aggression in the years ahead.”
“We are determined to show the world that America will not flinch in our defense of freedom,” Austin said. “If we do not stand up to the Kremlin’s aggression today, if we do not deter other would-be aggressors, we will only invite more aggression, more bloodshed and more chaos. America will be more secure if we stand up to Putin’s increasingly aggressive Russia.”
Later in the day, Zelenskyy met with International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva at the multilateral institution’s headquarters in Washington. The IMF board is also meeting Monday about releasing funds to Ukraine, but Zelenskyy is not attending the meeting.
Ukraine is seeking additional U.S. military aid in its fight against Russia. The White House is expected to intensify its outreach to Capitol Hill this week to urge Congress to pass new funding as part of a larger emergency supplemental aid package.
Zelenskyy is scheduled to visit the White House on Tuesday to meet with President Joe Biden as the Ukrainian president appeals for additional U.S. military aid.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the meeting was meant “to underscore the United States’ unshakeable commitment to supporting the people of Ukraine as they defend themselves against Russia’s brutal invasion.”
“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,” she said in a statement Sunday.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have also invited Zelenskyy to speak to all members of the Senate on Tuesday, according to a Senate leadership aide.
Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, warned last week that if the U.S. delays military aid to Ukraine, there’s a “big risk” that it could lose its war against Russia.
“If the help which [is] now debating in Congress will be just postponed … it gives the big risk that we can be in same position [where] we’re located now,” Yermak said while speaking at the U.S. Institute for Peace in Washington.
“That is why it is extremely critically important that this support will be voted and will be voted as soon as possible,” Yermak added.