The White House brought in Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy to try to save the day on their now $110 billion military funding, but the Zelenskyy magic apparently is no longer there. AP reported today that the Republican Senators were unmoved from their position: No more aid to Ukraine unless they get a large increase in support for U.S. border defenses.
Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) said the emergency funding wouldn’t gain GOP support unless it includes “real, meaningful border reform.” A key Republican negotiator, Sen. James Lankford of Oklahoma, stated that nothing Zelenskyy could say would change the negotiations. AP quoted him: “Hey, pay attention to us, but not your own country? No. We’ve got to be able to deal with all these things together.”
The White House had offered that the time was right for Zelenskyy’s trip to Washington, as Biden was pushing for his aid package before the holiday break. White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson pushed the “Putin card”: Putin “is clearly watching what happens in Congress—and we need Congress to act this month to support Ukraine in its time of need.” NSC spokesman John Kirby took to NBC to claim: “This additional funding will absolutely help Ukraine claw back even more of their territory and kick the Russians right out of Ukraine.” Biden’s close ally Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) was frustrated over the impasse: “It is maddening. A very bad message to the world, to the Ukrainian people.”
Besides stressing that the U.S. had to fight Russia, that they could not give up on Ukraine, Zelenskyy evidently explained that he was drafting men in their 30s and 40s in a show of strength for the battle. It apparently didn’t move the needle.
In their joint press conference this afternoon at the White House, Biden insisted that failure to support Ukraine with funding will embolden Putin, and urged Zelenskyy not to lose hope, because “we’re standing with you.” Putin, he said, “is banking on the United States failing to deliver for Ukraine. We must, we must, we must prove him wrong.” If Putin isn’t stopped, he warned, “it will endanger the freedom of everyone almost everywhere. Putin will keep going.” He added that Ukraine’s success and its ability to deter aggression in the future “are vital to security for the world at large.”
Sen. James David Vance (R-OH) was incensed, telling Fox News anchor Laura Ingraham that Zelenskyy’s coming to the U.S. “lecturing” Americans and “demanding” more of their taxpayer dollars was “utterly disgraceful.” Further, his visit will end with an “undignified process” in which he will demand that U.S. lawmakers submit or be labeled “puppets” of Putin. Vance commented directly on Zelenskyy’s address yesterday at the National Defense University, where Zelenskyy had claimed that the delays related to “unresolved issues on Capitol Hill” are inspiring the Kremlin. Vance stated, “if you want to secure your border first, you are actually a Putin puppet: He said this publicly today,” adding that Vance found it “disgraceful” and “grotesque.”