Sat, 09 Dec 2023

Zelenskyy Courts Ottawa After Whirlwind US Visit

Voice of America
23 Sep 2023, 05:06 GMT+10

Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was scheduled to address Canada's Parliament on Friday, his first time speaking to the assembly since Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

His visit followed a whirlwind Washington trip, during which he won a pledge of continued support from President Joe Biden and delivered a bracing message: Without another tranche of U.S. funding to combat Russian aggression, Ukraine will lose the war.

'The United States is going to continue to stand with you,' Biden told Zelenskyy on Thursday at the White House.

Zelenskyy and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were scheduled to sign an agreement designed to strengthen economic ties between the two countries. Ukrainian Canadians are the nation's 11th largest ethnic group, representing more than 1.3 million people.

Trudeau said in a statement before the Ukrainian leader's arrival, "Canada remains unwavering in our support to the people of Ukraine as they fight for their sovereignty and their democracy, as well as our shared values, like respect for the rule of law, freedom and self-determination."

The two leaders will travel to Toronto, where they will meet with business leaders and members of the Ukrainian Canadian community.

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On Thursday, Biden assured the Ukrainian president that strong U.S. support for his fight against Russian aggression would continue despite opposition from some Republican lawmakers to providing billions more in war funding for Ukraine.

Biden's request for an additional $24 billion in Ukraine aid through the end of the year is tied up in a budget fight in Congress that could lead to a government shutdown after a September 30 deadline.

Asked how to overcome the opposition, Biden said the only way was approval by Congress.

"I'm counting on the good judgment of the United States Congress. There's no alternative,' he said.

Zelenskyy also met Thursday with legislators on Capitol Hill, and despite the opposition from some Republicans, the response was generally positive to his plea for supplemental funding for his nation's war against Russian aggression.

Graham hears strong case

Speaking to VOA's Ukrainian Service, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he thought Zelenskyy made a strong case that with America's help, Ukraine would win, and without it, it would lose the war.

"And if [Russian President Vladimir] Putin gets away with this in Ukraine, he will keep going in Europe and China is likely to invade Taiwan," Graham said.

"If you don't get that, you're missing a lot of history. So, I thought he was compelling, he was humble."

Graham noted that 18 months into Ukraine's war against Russian aggression, not one American soldier has died, NATO is bigger, the Russian economy is crumbling and the Russian military is being decimated. "This has been a good investment for the American people," Graham said.

"This idea that Ukraine doesn't matter, it's a non-event to American national security, I think it's ridiculous. If you don't think China's watching, you are missing a lot, and Putin will keep going. If we beat him in Ukraine, we make the world a better place, and all they need is American military and economic support for a fraction of our defense budget," he said.

Graham expressed optimism that Congress would approve the U.S. aid for Ukraine. "Who wants it on their resume that when the world was challenged, the world order as we know it was under siege, you blinked? ... I'm going to tell my House colleagues: You're writing history for the world. Don't get it wrong."OA's Ukrainian Service, Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar expressed confidence there would be bipartisan support in Congress for additional funding.

"There's always going to be some people that have a different view - that's democracy. But the vast majority in the Senate, the vast majority of Democrats and Republicans, are strongly standing with Ukraine," she said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer emphasized the danger of not passing the supplemental funding request, saying, "It is very clear that if we were to have a government shutdown, or pass a CR [continuing resolution] without Ukrainian aid, the damage that would occur on Ukraine's campaign would be devastating."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a major supporter of U.S. aid to Ukraine in the Senate, was tight-lipped after the session with Zelenskyy, telling reporters only that it was "a good meeting."

Security package

Zelenskyy also met with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ahead of a Pentagon announcement of a new security package of more air defense and artillery capabilities for Ukraine.

Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters Thursday that "everything is on schedule" for the delivery of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine and that if there was a government shutdown, F-16 training in the U.S. for Ukrainian pilots would still take place.

From the beginning of hostilities in February 2022 to May 2023, the U.S. provided more than $76.8 billion in assistance to Kyiv, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

The share of Americans who say the U.S. is providing too much aid to Ukraine has steadily increased since the start of the war, according to a June 2023 Pew Research Center survey.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a high-level Security Council meeting on Ukraine, Sept. 20, 2023, at United Nations headquarters. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaks during a high-level Security Council meeting on Ukraine, Sept. 20, 2023, at United Nations headquarters.

Just 14% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters said the amount of U.S. aid to Ukraine was excessive but more than 44% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters said the amount of aid was too high. One-third of all Americans told Pew that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a threat to U.S. interests.

In the House, where concerns are growing in the Republican majority about continuing U.S. aid to Ukraine, the reception for Zelenskyy on Thursday was far more muted. Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries met with the Ukrainian president behind closed doors, but the speaker's office did not release any photographs of the meeting.

"It was a very candid, open, forward-looking discussion," Jeffries said in his weekly press conference Thursday.

Jeffries said the war between Ukraine and Russia was "a struggle on the global stage between democracy and autocracy, between freedom and tyranny, between truth and propaganda, between good and evil."

More conservative members of the Republican majority have objected to passing the Ukraine supplemental request along with funding for the U.S. government.

In an opinion piece published earlier this week by Fox News, Republican Representative Mike Waltz wrote that "while most Americans are sympathetic to Ukraine and understand that Russian President Vladimir Putin must be prevented from his goal of re-creating the old Soviet Union, President Joe Biden has not been a good-faith partner. The Biden administration has neither explained the American objective in Ukraine nor his strategy to achieve it."

Waltz called for greater burden sharing of aid to Ukraine by European countries and said "the United States must invest its savings in its own security. It should match the dollar value of any aid it gives to Ukraine with securing our southern border."

Most Republicans say they recognize the need, though, to provide more aid.

VOA's Katherine Gypson, Tatiana Vorozhko Koprowicz, Penelope Poulou and Jeff Seldin contributed to this report.

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