Ukraine leader Zelenskyy meets with Biden, Congress

U.S. President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., Sept. 21, 2023.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden welcomed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to the White House on Thursday as the embattled leader seeks to shore up additional support for his war-torn country.

Biden was seeking a “battlefield perspective” from Zelenskyy in their meeting, according to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.

Speaking in the Oval Office before the meeting, Zelenskyy thanked the U.S., saying the countries are “really truly allies.” He said he intended to talk about weapons systems with Biden, “with a special emphasis on air defense.”

“I am in Washington to strengthen Ukraine’s position to defend our children, our families, our homes, freedom and democracy in the world,” Zelenskyy said.

Biden called Ukraine a “partner” and said he was working with other G7 allies to formalize a commitment to the country’s long-term security.

“We’re supporting a just and lasting peace, one that respects Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Biden said.

Zelenskyy addressed the United Nations General Assembly earlier this week in New York.

During his own speech Tuesday at the U.N., Biden promised the U.S. would “continue to stand” with Ukraine as Russia’s invasion drags on.

But getting Congress to fulfill that promise with more aid is complicated.

The White House is seeking $24 billion in additional aid to Ukraine, which it hoped would be passed alongside a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown as federal budget negotiations continue.

The measure has bipartisan support in the Senate but has been held up in the House of Representatives, where some members, such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., have said they will not support any additional aid.

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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is in a difficult position on the issue of Ukraine due to a slim GOP majority in the House, which gives individual Republican lawmakers leverage to pressure him to accede to their demands.

Conservatives balked at McCarthy’s proposal last week to pair Ukraine aid with additional border funding.

President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky (C) walks with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (L) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer during his visit to the U.S. Capitol Building on Sept. 21, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

Win Mcnamee | Getty Images

Zelenskyy stopped at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday morning before his Oval Office meeting with Biden to make his pitch directly to lawmakers.

Unlike his visit in December, Zelenskyy did not address a joint session of Congress. 

McCarthy agreed to meet with the Ukrainian president privately but did not offer a forum for him to appeal to the full House of Representatives as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., did in the upper chamber.

Zelenskyy told reporters after his congressional meetings that he had a “frank, constructive dialogue” with members of both parties in both chambers.

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