The White House announced Friday that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will pay his second wartime visit to Washington next week in an effort to secure his country’s critical ally, which has supplied billions of dollars in aid to combat Russian invaders.
On Thursday, Zelensky will visit the White House for talks with President Joe Biden, as well as meetings with the US Congress, where members of the rival Republican Party are wary as Biden prepares to push through a huge new package for Ukraine.
The Ukrainian president’s visit to Washington will follow meetings with other world leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, said that the trip came at a “critical time” as Ukraine wages a counteroffensive against Russia.
Biden will reaffirm “his commitment to continuing to lead the world in supporting Ukraine as it defends its independence, its sovereignty and its territorial integrity,” Sullivan told reporters.
He compared Zelensky’s visit to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, one of the world’s most isolated and sanctioned regimes from which Moscow seeks weapons.
However, concerns have grown over the future of US help as Congress approaches a September 30 deadline to authorize money, just as the election season begins.
Former President Donald Trump, the Republican favorite to oppose Biden next year, has slammed US aid, saying the money would be better spent at home and predicting an ultimate victory for Putin, whom he admires.
Building ‘Momentum’ for Aid
But traditional Republicans including Senator Mitch McConnell, the party’s Senate leader, support assistance to Ukraine.
“We have confidence that there will be bipartisan support for this. I think President Zelensky does as well, and he wants to build momentum towards that as we head to the end of the month,” Sullivan said.
“Frankly, Republicans and Democrats both recognize that the United States cannot — in its own naked self-interest, let alone the moral obligations we have — walk away from Ukraine at this critical moment,” Sullivan said.
Ukraine launched a counter-offensive against entrenched Russian forces in June, but progress has been slow, sparking a political debate in the West about whether to back Kyiv.
The US has pledged $43 billion in security support as Ukraine defends itself against Russian intrusions.
Last month, Biden requested Congress for an additional $40 billion in emergency security funding as well as economic and humanitarian help for Ukraine.
Zelensky’s travel to Washington will be his second since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. In December, he covertly went to the US capital on his first international journey since the war began, wearing the military fatigues that have become his signature.
Zelensky has grown more comfortable traveling abroad, from European allies to Saudi Arabia to Japan, where he met with leaders at the Group of Seven meeting in May.
In February, Biden paid a surprise visit to Kyiv, a highly uncommon journey to an area of active warfare for the security-conscious White House.
To counter charges that he is too old for the position, Biden has begun to release campaign advertisements from his Kyiv visit, which show the 80-year-old president walking proudly in his sunglasses alongside Zelensky.