Zelensky arrives in US demanding more weapons
A US military jet has picked up Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky in Poland and delivered him to an air base near Washington, DC on Wednesday afternoon. The Ukrainian president's visit to the US came as the Pentagon published the contents of the new $1.85 billion weapons package pledged to Kiev, which includes Patriot air defense missiles. Congress is expected to approve another $45 billion in Ukraine aid for 2023.
Zelensky’s trip was “arranged in secret” over the past week, US officials told CNN. The Ukrainian leader took a train to Przemysl, where an official US aircraft was waiting. He landed at Joint Base Andrews – home of Air Force One – shortly after noon local time, on Wednesday.
President Joe Biden is expected to host Zelensky at the White House, in a gesture “meant to demonstrate in stirring fashion the continued American commitment to Ukraine at a moment when Biden’s ability to maintain that support at home and abroad is being tested,” according to CNN.
Just ahead of the visit, the US Department of Defense announced the contents of its latest ‘care package’ for Kiev. At the top is one battery of Patriot air defense systems – consisting of five to eight launchers – which US officials swear will not be manned by Americans but rather Ukrainians trained in Germany.
In addition to artillery and rocket ammunition, the $1.85 billion package includes thirty mortars, 37 light armored vehicles, six armored trucks, 120 humvees, landmines, night vision equipment, and body armor.
Another $45 billion for Ukraine has been earmarked in the $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, which Congress is slated to pass on Thursday. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi asked all members to attend in person to hear Zelensky’s “historic” speech.
Jen Psaki, former White House press secretary and soon to be an MSNBC host, set the expectations for the speech by saying Americans should expect “many well deserved standing ovations” and calling it “a sales pitch to Congress and [the] public” at a time when US support for Ukraine was “decreasing.”
The Pentagon alone has committed $20 billion to Ukraine since hostilities with Russia escalated in February, with the Russian Defense Ministry estimating total NATO support for Kiev at over $97 billion.
According to AP, however, Zelensky wants more. “We are grateful for their support, but it is not enough,” he said in a video released by his office on Tuesday, holding up a Ukrainian flag signed by troops from the front, which he intends to gift to US lawmakers. “It is a hint – it is not enough.”