US war hawks visit Kiev
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal met on Thursday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who petitioned the lawmakers for more weapons. Blumenthal and Graham have been two of the most ardently pro-Ukraine voices in the US Congress.
According to Zelensky’s office, the Ukrainian leader insisted to the Americans that the military situation in Ukraine is “certainly difficult, yet controlled.” This statement was made despite the fact that Russian and Donbass forces recently pushed Kiev’s military out of the entire Lugansk People’s Republic, and, according to Moscow, inflicted more than 5,000 casualties and destroyed hundreds of tanks and other pieces of military hardware over the last two weeks.
Zelensky called on Graham and Blumenthal to push Washington to supply Ukraine with air defense systems, which the Pentagon says will be sent to Kiev soon. The trio also spoke about Blumenthal and Graham’s efforts to have Congress classify Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, a step which some US allies have balked at.
Of the overwhelming majority of US lawmakers who voted in May to supply Ukraine with $40 billion in military and economic aid, Graham and Blumenthal are two of the most committed supporters of Zelensky’s government, and have been since before Russia launched its military operation in Ukraine in February.
Graham visited Ukraine in 2017 with the late Arizona Senator John McCain, where he told Ukrainian marines that he would “take [their] case to Washington” and ensure that Russian President Vladimir Putin pays “a heavier price,” as the Russian-speaking regions of Donetsk and Lugansk sought independence from Kiev.
Blumenthal, who previously lied about serving in Vietnam, joined colleagues from both parties for a jaunt to Ukraine in January, where he promised military aid to Zelensky’s government more than a month before fighting started. On top of voting for the $40 billion aid bill for Ukraine, Blumenthal introduced legislation on Tuesday that would commit the US to financing the reconstruction of the country when hostilities eventually cease.
Graham, known as one of the most pro-war members of the Republican Party, has gone further than voting to back Zelensky’s military. In March, the South Carolina Republican called twice for the assassination of Putin, declaring that he wanted the Russian leader “taken out, one way or the other.”
“Is there a Brutus in Russia? Is there a more successful Colonel Stauffenberg in the Russian military?” he asked, referring to the assassin of Julius Caesar and the would-be assassin of Adolf Hitler.
Graham has ruled out a negotiated peace in Ukraine, telling Fox News in May that “there is no off-ramp in this war,” and urging the Biden administration to “triple down” on its support for Kiev.