Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will meet with President Joe Biden and address Congress on Wednesday, his first trip outside Ukraine since Russia launched its violent invasion in February.
Biden invited Zelenskyy to Washington to reinforce the U.S. “stands with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” according to a senior Biden administration official who discussed the trip on the condition of anonymity.
During their meeting, Biden will commit $2 billion in additional US security assistance to send Patriot anti-missile batteries to Ukraine amid Russian missile and drone bombardment of cities.
Zelenskyy’s joint address to Congress is scheduled for later this evening, as lawmakers prepare to vote on another $45 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine. Since the resumption of hostilities between Ukraine and Russia, the United States has provided approximately $68 billion in military, economic, and humanitarian assistance.
The visit by Zelenskyy will mark the 300th day since Russia invaded Ukraine. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested in a letter that lawmakers travel to Washington on Wednesday for a “very special focus on democracy” that night.
“To have a complete and total hero in the United States Congress fighting for democracy, leading people fighting for democracy, would bring honour to the United States Congress,” Pelosi told reporters.
The trip by Zelenskyy will be the first time the Ukrainian president has left the country since Russia’s attack. However, this is not his first visit to the United States; in September 2021, he met with Biden, posing in the Oval Office for photos with the president and discussing matters of state relevant to both countries.
According to the official, Biden and Zelenskyy discussed the upcoming visit during a phone call on December 11, and the White House formally extended the invitation last Wednesday. Zelenskyy agreed on Sunday. According to the official, the US consulted with Zelenskyy on security parameters, and Zelenskyy signed off.
Biden and Zelenskyy will talk about “every aspect” of Russia’s war in Ukraine, including “where the war goes from here,” according to the official.
During a briefing last week, White House spokesman John Kirby stated that the Biden administration has “no expectation” that winter will bring an end to fighting in the region.
“There are no indications, and certainly no expectations, that the war will be over by the end of the year,” Kirby said. “All of the indicators are pointing in the opposite direction.”
Lawmakers are rushing to pass a $1.7 trillion spending bill before Christmas, which includes $45 billion for Ukraine, up from the $37 billion Biden requested for the latest round of aid. The increase comes amid concerns that funding will be more difficult to pass when Republicans take control of the House next year.
In a video released by his office on Tuesday, Zelenskyy hinted at his trip to the United States by being handed a Ukrainian flag while in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut.
“In the video, the guys handed over our beautiful Ukrainian flag with their signatures for us to pass on,” Zelenskyy said. “We’re not in a good situation. The enemy’s army is growing, and our people are becoming braver, necessitating the use of more powerful weapons. We will forward it from the boys to Congress and then to the President of the United States. We appreciate their assistance, but it is insufficient. It’s a hint, but it’s not enough.”
The mobile Patriot missile system is one of the most advanced in the US arsenal, capable of shooting down aircraft or ballistic missiles in any weather.
Ukraine desperately needs air defence systems to counter Russia’s barrage of missiles and drones aimed at power plants and other civilian targets. Ukraine’s use of older, Soviet-era air defence systems, according to US officials, has prevented Russia from gaining control of Ukrainian airspace.
Patriot batteries are highly sought after all over the world and require extensive training to operate.