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Dec 12, 2023, 5:49pm EST
politics

Biden says US wants Ukraine to ‘win’

Yuri Gripas/Pool/Sipa USA
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The News

President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the U.S. wants to see Ukraine win the war against Russia as he hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy with future aid to Kyiv in doubt.

“We want to see Ukraine win the war,” Biden said at a news conference, adding that “winning means Ukraine is a sovereign, independent nation that can afford to defend itself today and deter further aggression.”

Biden also warned that allowing U.S. funding to Ukraine to lapse would be a “gift” to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Putin is banking on the United States failing to deliver for Ukraine,” Biden said. “We must prove him wrong.”

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Zelenskyy, who spent Tuesday meeting with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to push for more assistance, said Ukraine has a “clear plan” for its war effort and dismissed the idea of Kyiv making territorial concessions to Russia as “insane.”

The Ukrainian leader pushed back against the notion that the war has reached a stalemate, saying Kyiv’s forces have made “significant progress” by freeing 50% of territory occupied by Russia since the full-scale invasion in February 2022.

In their meeting earlier Tuesday afternoon, Biden announced he would send another $200 million package of military equipment to Ukraine, further dwindling the available aid.

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The View From Congress

Zelenskyy spent about an hour meeting with U.S. senators earlier Tuesday before crossing the Capitol to meet separately with House Speaker Mike Johnson.

In brief remarks following their meeting, Johnson made clear his position hadn’t changed on conditioning U.S. aid to Ukraine on border security measures and also said he hasn’t gotten sufficient answers from the Biden administration about the strategy forward in the war.

“These are our conditions because these are the conditions of the American people, and we are resolute on that,” Johnson said.

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A bipartisan group of senators has been negotiating on a potential border security package for weeks now with buy-in from the White House amid Republicans insisting future Ukraine aid be paired with measures to control illegal migration, but the two sides have yet to reach a consensus.

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., one of the negotiators, said he hoped the Senate could reach an agreement before Christmas if the group delayed the planned holiday recess.

“There are some really serious new policies on the table, policies that are outside of the Democratic comfort zone,” Murphy told reporters after meeting Zelenskyy. “We’ve stretched, now Republicans need to stretch as well.”

But that’s not looking likely, as two leading Republicans predicted that the Senate would not reach a deal before year’s end.

Senators said Zelenskyy addressed questions about Ukraine’s war plans and corruption and underscored the importance of aid to Kyiv, warning that tactics would turn more brutal without military support from the U.S. He also asked for more air defense support.

“For them this is a question of life and death,” said Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D.

Zelenskyy didn’t offer a specific timeline of when he would like to see assistance approved, though the White House has warned it will run out by the end of the year.

“He talked about the dire consequences of the United States not providing aid but he said that he is not planning for the United States to pull out,” Murphy said.

In remarks on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer characterized the meeting with Zelenskyy as “very powerful” and said he conveyed that “if no more aid is approved, Putin will win.” Schumer also said he implored Johnson to keep the House in session in order to pass the national security supplemental, which is expected to also include funding for Israel and Taiwan.

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Notable

  • Russia has lost 315,000 troops since the start of its war on Ukraine, according to a declassified U.S. intelligence assessment reported by the New York Times, a huge number when compared to the 360,000 troops with which the Russian army began the invasion.
  • Forty-eight percent of U.S. voters polled in a Financial Times-Michigan Ross survey said they believe the U.S. is spending “too much” on security and financial assistance for Kyiv as it fights the Russian invasion.
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