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Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Congress after giving a Ukrainian national flag to U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris following his address the US Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC, on 21 December 2022. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy Thanks Congress for Continued Support Against Russian Invasion

On Wednesday, as part of his first known trip outside his country since Russian forces invaded Ukraine at the beginning of 2022, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the United States.

Along with thanking the United States for its support in its defense efforts against a Russian invasion, Zelenskyy urged a joint Congressional session to continue providing support. He asked Congress to approve an additional $50 billion in aid, noting that if approved quickly the funding would preserve democracy in the region, according to The New York Times.

“The battle is not only for life, freedom, and security of Ukrainians or any other nation which Russia attempts to conquer. …Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way,” Zelenskyy said, in a speech delivered in English, CNN reported.

Prior to his speech to Congress, Zelenskyy also met with U.S. President Joe Biden at the White House.

Biden announced on Wednesday that he will approve the Pentagon’s plan to deliver additional support to Ukraine with almost $2 billion in security assistance, including a Patriot air defense system.

The system—an anti-missile battery—will help Ukrainian forces defend against air and missile attacks, including against ballistic and cruise missiles. The Patriot defense missiles usually include a radar system, power generation supply, and a command and control station, according to ABC News.  

Ukrainian officials have called for an advanced air defense system, like the Patriot batteries, since the beginning of Russia’s invasion—especially once Russia “began using missile and one-way drone barrages targeting Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, causing electricity blackouts throughout much of the country,” ABC News reported.

The package Zelenskyy requested from Congress would not only pay for arms, ammunition, and other aspects of Ukraine’s war efforts, but would also support Ukrainians facing a bitter winter.

“Washington is already shutting down for the holidays, but the timing of Zelensky’s (sic) visit makes sense. Ukrainian cities have been bombarded by the Russians yet again over the past few days in an attempt to break the country’s will to fight. The ground war is otherwise in something like a strategic pause, as Russian President Vladimir Putin gives his forces time to regroup in advance of what will likely be another set of offensives,” wrote Tom Nichols for The Atlantic.

U.S. officials say the war between Ukraine and Russia is expected to soon enter a new phase both on the battlefield and around the world, according to CNN. While Russia continues targeting civilian sites in Ukraine, higher energy and food prices—partly triggered by sanctions on Russia—endanger people elsewhere.

Political friction in Congress over the funding could endanger future aid to Ukraine’s defense efforts, with Republicans—awaiting to take a slim majority in the House of Representatives in 2023—publicly hesitating to issue additional funds.

In early December, Republican representatives proposed a resolution to audit military and economic aid sent to Ukraine, sponsored by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). While the measure sent “their strongest signal yet that the Biden administration will face stricter scrutiny” of its support for Ukraine when control in the House shifts, it was defeated in the House Foreign Affairs Committee “in a 26-to-22 vote because of the unity of Democrats” who did not want to risk the implication of waning U.S. support, according to The Washington Post.

“I am proud that the United States has led the world in support of Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself, and tonight’s address underscored the importance of continuing this work,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said on Wednesday night. “We will continue to stand with the Ukrainian people, and our NATO allies, to back Ukraine—including roughly $45 billion in additional military and economic assistance to Ukraine that will be approved by Congress this week.”

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) supported Zelenskyy’s request, commenting to the Post that “Anytime you have one country invading another country, and basically putting the entire free world at risk, you have to respond….This is appropriate. He’s not asking us for soldiers. He’s asking us for assistance.”