fbpx
Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Green Fatigue

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is in Washington pushing for billions more in Ukraine aid, but Americans have grown tired of this former comedian’s shtick.

President Biden Meets With Visiting Ukrainian President Zelensky At The White House

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky landed in Washington, D.C. on Monday, his third trip to the U.S. since Russia’s invasion. Dressed in his trademark green fatigues, he sat with President Joe Biden and House Speaker Mike Johnson, and later on addressed a closed-door Senate meeting to push for more American aid to Ukraine. Zelensky is used to getting what he wants, but times have changed: Americans, especially Republicans, are tired of giving billions of their hard-earned greenbacks to Ukraine.

Zelensky was supposed to be Biden’s ace in the hole during last week’s Senate negotiations for a $100 billion four-part supplemental package. Apparently, many lawmakers in the United States listen more to a president of a country more than 5,000 miles away than their own.

Advertisement

A majority of the supplemental funding, more than $60 billion, would have gone to support Ukraine. The rest would have been divided between Israel, the Indo-Pacific, and our own southern border—though the border funding was mostly for the Biden administration to process even more migrants. Zelensky was scheduled to make an emotional plea to the Senate for more funding last Tuesday, but canceled at the last minute. Nevertheless, both his chief of staff, his new minister of defense, and the Ukrainian parliament’s chairman were meeting with legislators on Capitol Hill. 

Yet these little known Ukrainian characters don’t have Zelensky’s sway over Washington. The bipartisan supplemental failed, as did the Democrats’ subsequent go-it-alone $111 billion supplemental that would have provided $65 billion for Ukraine. ($12 billion of this was cash to keep the government in Kiev from going bankrupt.) Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York switched his vote at the last minute so he could reintroduce the supplemental at a later date. Zelensky ended up heading to D.C. after all.

Zelensky started his junket at the National Defense University on Monday. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin introduced the Ukrainian president, affirming that “Ukraine matters profoundly to America’s security and to the trajectory of global security in the 21st century.”

“We are determined to show the world that America will not flinch in our defense of freedom, if we do not stand up to the Kremlin’s aggression today, if we do not deter other would-be aggressors, we will only invite more aggression, more bloodshed and more chaos,” Austin added.

When it was Zelensky’s time to take the stage, he was even less diplomatic than Austin. “Let me be frank with you friends,” Zelensky told the room full of western military personnel, “if there’s anyone inspired by unresolved issues on Capitol Hill, it is just Putin and his sick clique.”

Advertisement

Putin’s “real target is the freedom people enjoy from Warsaw to Chicago to Yokohama,” Zelensky continued. “He is trying to make democratic countries lose hope, pushing the idea that dictatorships with a bit of market economy are winning this global faceoff.”

On Tuesday morning, Zelensky met separately with members of the House and Senate. 

Zelensky entered the Senate meeting, held in the Mansfield Room, flanked by Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky—who, at various points, has supported Biden’s four-part supplemental package. Zelensky pushed senators to provide more advanced weaponry, such as Patriot missile systems, in future Ukraine aid legislation. The Ukrainian president, preempting criticism that members of his government have routinely taken advantage of U.S. funds to enrich themselves, also tried to assure the Senate that U.S. funds would not be misappropriated or wasted. According to Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican from Mississippi, Zelensky also told the Senate that a Ukrainian victory also includes clawing back Crimea from Russian hands.

“[Zelensky will] fight until the last person,” Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, seeming to suggest that Zelensky would rather have no nation at all than part of its former territory.

“Zelensky has addressed us so many times that he’s starting to feel like the 101st senator,” Senator Mike Lee told The American Conservative. “That’s not a good thing.”

After the Senate’s meeting with Zelensky, CNN’s Manu Raju asked Senator Tommy Tuberville about Zelensky’s visit and the current situation in Ukraine.

“Are you concerned that, if there is no money, Ukraine could lose the war to Russia?” Raju asked. “That’s always been a big possibility the whole time,” Tuberville replied. “I’ve never thought they could win to begin with.”

Raju also asked Tuberville if he’s concerned about what might follow if Russia wins. “Everybody keeps saying [Russia is] going to continue to go across Europe. I mean, they can’t beat Ukraine on the Eastern side. How are they going to continue to go the rest of the way through Europe? I’ve never believed that scenario…. I think it’s a good selling point to send more money.”

As for the House, Johnson reportedly told Zelensky that, while he empathizes with Ukraine’s position, the Biden administration and the Schumer-led Senate have attempted to force an unworkable piece of legislation on the Senate that would be dead on arrival in the House. If there are going to be tethers between more aid to Ukraine and security on the southern border, Democrats need to get serious about making the number of migrant crossings go down. Furthermore, Johnson added that the Biden administration has not been forthcoming about any kind of strategy in Ukraine.

“What the Biden administration seems to be asking for is billions of additional dollars, and no appropriate oversight and no clear strategy to win and none of the answers that I think the American people are owed,” Johnson said after the meeting. Furthermore, at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit on Monday night, Johnson told the crowd he was ready to go into recess without moving on Ukraine funding if Democrats keep pushing for inoperable terms.

Zelensky failed to advance his cause on Capitol Hill and retreated to the White House. Biden and Zelensky sat in front of the Oval Office fireplace and addressed a gaggle of reporters before entering a private meeting. Opening the discussion, Biden told the press, “We stand at a real inflection point in history.” Zelensky concurred: “We mustn’t let [Putin] succeed.”

“Ukraine can win,” he asserted.

Before they entered the closed door meeting, Biden announced that his administration had approved another $200 million in Ukraine aid using the presidential drawdown authority. This action seems to contradict his administration’s comments from last week. On December 4, Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young wrote a letter to Congress claiming, “There is no magical pot of funding available to meet this moment. We are out of money—and nearly out of time.” 

If America was out of money to support Ukraine, where did the $200 million come from? If things are so dire for Ukraine and Putin is on the verge of marching through, why won’t the establishment yield about securing the southern border? It seems that Zelensky isn’t the only clown at the D.C. rodeo.

Comments

Become a Member today for a growing stake in the conservative movement.
Join here!
Join here