Ukrainian President Zelenskyy courts Washington for aid amid some GOP Resistance


Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says Zelenskyy told senators the stakes couldn’t be higher. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says Zelenskyy told senators the stakes couldn’t be higher.


CHUCK SCHUMER: Mr. Zelenskyy said, if we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war.

SUMMERS: For more on Zelenskyy’s visit, we’re joined now from the White House by NPR senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Hey, Tam.


SUMMERS: So Tam, Zelenskyy put the request for support in some very stark terms there. This war has now been dragging on for over 18 months. Is he getting the same kind of reception that he did the last time that he visited Washington?

KEITH: Last time was in December. Zelenskyy was in Washington on a surprise visit, which caused a lot of excitement. He gave an address at a joint meeting of Congress. The two men held a press conference together at the White House. There was still some formality, but this time the Ukrainian president didn’t get the same welcome. Zelenskyy also met with members of the House and senators. He was not invited to speak to the entire House of Representatives where Speaker Kevin McCarthy struggles to control the far-right faction of his Republicans. This time, there was also no White House Press Conference. Supporting Ukraine was easy for Democrats in the beginning, and still is. There’s a small, but vocal group of Republicans who are opposed to sending more money to Ukraine. The polls show that Republican voters are becoming more skeptical of U.S. spending in Ukraine. And that does reflect what polls show about Republican voters and their increasing skepticism of U.S. spending in Ukraine.

SUMMERS: OK. And Tam, what about Zelenskyy’s ask – what does he want, and how likely is he to get it?

KEITH: So Zelenskyy had some specific requests for weapons systems and military equipment. He is also urging Congress to approve $24 billion of emergency assistance requested by the White House in August. This supplemental funding request gets wrapped up in the much larger drama of funding the federal governments for next year. House Republicans are unable to pass any legislation, let alone a Ukraine funding measure, because of internal disagreements. But Republican Michael McCaul, who’s chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, expressed confidence after meeting with Zelenskyy that, once they work through the current political machinations, something will pass.


MICHAEL MCCAUL: They need it, and they’re going to get it. As I mentioned, this is supported by the majority. Putin wants to break the will of Americans and Europeans. That’s what Putin wants ’cause he wants to break the will of the American people and the Europeans.

KEITH: He says Republicans want to see more accountability about how the money is being spent, and they want a plan for victory from the White House – though, I have to say, such a plan is unlikely to come because the president has said many times, this is Ukraine’s war to fight, and they are the ones that have to set the terms for how the war ends.

SUMMERS: As you mentioned, Tam, all of this is wrapped up with the government funding fight going on here in Washington. As for timing, when will Ukraine require the money and weapons Zelenskyy has requested from Washington?

KEITH Today, a new delivery was announced. This money was approved long ago by Congress, before Republicans were in control of the House. This money will run out by the end of the month, at the same time that the government may shut down, if Congress does not act. Let’s assume that Congress approves the $24 billion requested by the White House. That will only last Ukraine through the end of this calendar year, so we could be back around Christmas because Ukraine is going to need more money.

SUMMERS: NPR senior White House correspondent Tamara Keith. Thank you.

KEITH: You’re welcome.

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