Ukraine, new battlefield between Republicans and Democrats in the United States | International
The president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, entered the Capitol dressed in his usual khaki shirt, surrounded by tie-wearing companions and an abundant escort of bodyguards. He was escorted by the Democratic minority leader in the House of Representatives, Hakeem Jeffries. House Speaker and Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy was elsewhere in the building.
The differences between the main American parties could not be more marked in the Ukrainian president's visit to Washington, his second in nine months. On the one hand, the White House received the president and his wife, Olena, with all pomp in a ceremony on its portico - not in the south gardens, as it was not a state visit -, a prelude to a long meeting with the President Joe Biden, first alone and then surrounded by his advisors, to discuss the conflict situation on the ground and the military, economic and humanitarian aid from the United States to Kiev. The US Government is planning a new aid package of $24 billion, pending approval by Congress, and announced new military and missile defense aid during the meeting between the two presidents.
In another long session, the Pentagon discussed short- and long-term military needs with Zelensky, especially the possible transfer of ATACMS tactical missile systems, which Kiev claims to urgently need to guarantee the success of its counteroffensive. And in the Senate, with a Democratic majority, the hundred legislators welcomed him with honors to listen to his passionate appeal to continue US aid in the conflict.
On the other hand, the Republicans - with a majority in the House of Representatives - vetoed, according to the digital media Punchbowl Newsthat Zelensky gave a speech before both houses of Congress, as he did on his previous visit, in December. In addition, a group of conservative congressmen sent a letter to the White House, hours before the Ukrainian leader's visit, to ask that Washington turn off the tap on aid to the country.
“How is the counteroffensive going? Are the Ukrainians closer to victory than they were six months ago? What is our strategy, and what is the president's exit plan? How does the Administration define victory in Ukraine? Approving new funds without knowing the answers to these questions would be an absurd abandonment of Congress' responsibility,” the legislators point out.
Zelensky did plan to meet with McCarthy, Jeffries, Republican committee chairmen and Democratic minority legislators. He needs to shore up the support of both political parties in the United States, especially in the face of the prospect of a long war and with presidential elections in November 2024, the result of which could change the political sign in the White House, now Democratic.
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“Without help, we lose the war”
The Ukrainian president's message was similar in each of his quotes. As he already did before the UN General Assembly, in an in-person speech on Tuesday; Zelensky launched an urgent appeal to continue helping his country in the war it is waging against the Russian invasion. Without that assistance, he assures, Ukraine will fall and it will do so with disastrous consequences for the West and its entire value system. “Zelensky has told us: 'If we stop receiving aid, we are going to lose the war,' said the leader of the Democratic majority in the Senate, Democrat Charles Schumer, after the plenary session of this chamber with the Ukrainian president.
During the first year of the war, that message found receptive ears among American lawmakers, both Republicans and Democrats. Thus, the United States has sent Kiev nearly $75 billion in successive military, economic and humanitarian assistance packages since the beginning of the Russian invasion in February 2022. But after the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives , the tables have turned.
Frustrated by what they consider to be little progress in a war to which there is no end in sight, the group of legislators furthest to the right is increasingly reluctant to approve new aid items to a country that they consider alien and that they believe He has already received enough. That money, they argue, should be invested in the United States to benefit American citizens.
It is a position that does not represent all Republican legislators. In the Senate, the leader of that party, Mitch McConnell, is one of the main supporters of the Ukrainian cause. But in the House, where Republicans govern with a slim majority, the hardline has an influence far greater than its size, so its conservative president, McCarthy, cannot afford to lose his support. In fact, his own leadership is at stake, as the ultra-conservative group has made very clear to him: McCarthy has been forced to amend his own promises and, under pressure from those legislators, to begin an impeachment process (impeachment) against Biden without putting it to a vote.
The next challenge for him comes next week, when on the 30th Congress must approve the budget measure that includes the allocation of 24 billion dollars for Ukraine, or cause the closure of government agencies due to lack of funds. The Republican hardline insists that it will not give its approval to that assignment.
McCarthy, according Punchbowl Newsalready declined this week an offer from the White House for lawmakers to receive a confidential presentation from the Pentagon and intelligence agencies on the situation in Ukraine, similar to the one senators got behind closed doors on Wednesday. Hence the meeting with Zelensky was tense: “I have questions to ask you: Can you account for the funds that we have already given you? What is his strategy for victory? ”He declared on the eve of the meeting.
Even in the Senate, the cracks among Republicans are evident. Missouri Republican Senator Josh Hawley said after the confidential briefing: “If there is a path to something that can be called a victory, I haven't heard of it.” However, his bench colleague, Senator Lindsey Graham, stressed that “if you were at that presentation and came away believing that what we do in Ukraine does not affect our national security interests in the world, you literally had your ears plugged.” ”.
The US Government insists that it will continue its assistance to Ukraine “with everything it needs and for as long as it takes.” Well, he considers that a defeat for kyiv would have serious consequences against his interests and those of his allies in the rest of the world, something that Biden reiterated on Tuesday at the UN General Assembly. Washington points, among other things, to a Russia at the gates of the European Union. But also to China, by ensuring that Beijing closely monitors the behavior of the United States in Ukraine, which it perceives as a roadmap for what would happen in the Pacific in the event of an attack on Taiwan.
“It is a critical moment, at the beginning of autumn,” the spokesman for the National Security Council, John Kirby, pointed out in a teleconference after the interventions of Zelensky and Biden before the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday. According to the senior official, “it is essential that the new assistance item be approved.” "If you think the cost of supporting Ukraine is already high, imagine how exorbitant it will be, in blood and finances, if we just walk away and let it [al presidente ruso, Vladímir Putin] take Ukraine. “Then the cost of defending sovereignty and territorial integrity will be significantly more expensive in money and blood, including American blood.”
American political divisions and the risk of, at the very least, delays in aid approval come at difficult times for Zelensky. In addition to a counteroffensive that has not produced the expected results so far, its dispute over grain exports with some of its European neighbors has led to the announcement by Poland - until now its best ally in the European Union - that it will stop send him military aid.
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