Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was greeted by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa late Thursday after a whirlwind visit to Washington.
Zelenskyy will address Canada’s Parliament on Friday, his first time speaking to the assembly since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Zelenskyy and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau are also scheduled to sign an agreement designed to strengthen economic ties between the two countries.
Trudeau said in a statement before the Ukrainian leader’s arrival, “Canada remains unwavering in our support to the people of Ukraine as they fight for their sovereignty and their democracy, as well as our shared values, like respect for the rule of law, freedom, and self-determination.”
The two leaders will also travel to Toronto, where they will meet with Canadians, including business leaders and members of the Ukrainian-Canadian community.
Zelenskyy swept through Washington in a diplomatic blitz Thursday, winning a pledge of continued support from President Joe Biden and delivering a bold message: Without another tranche of U.S. funding to combat Russian aggression, Ukraine will lose the war.
“The United States is going to continue to stand with you,” Biden told Zelenskyy at the White House.
Biden on Thursday released another $325 million for weapons for Ukraine, which did not include the long-range missiles Ukraine has asked for.
“Today I’m in Washington to strengthen our position, to defend Ukraine, our children, our families and our homes, freedom and democracy in the world,” Zelenskyy said, seated in the Oval Office in his signature green fatigues. “And I started my day in the U.S. Congress to thank the members and the people of America for that big, huge support.”
Earlier in the day, Zelenskyy met with legislators on Capitol Hill to appeal for $24 billion in supplemental funding the White House requested earlier this year. There is growing Republican concern about providing U.S. aid to Ukraine, combined with broader difficulties passing either a short-term continuing resolution or a full 2024 budget funding the U.S. government past a Sept. 30 deadline.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer summed up the meeting with Zelenskyy, telling the members, “if we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war.”
Later, in a statement, Schumer emphasized the danger of not passing the supplemental funding request, saying, “It is very clear that if we were to have a government shutdown, or pass a CR [continuing resolution] without Ukrainian aid, the damage that would occur on Ukraine’s campaign would be devastating.”
The United Nations estimates that at least 27,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed in the 19-month conflict, including about 600 children but its human rights commission, which conducts such counts, “believes that the actual figures are considerably higher.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a major supporter in the Senate of U.S. aid to Ukraine, was tight-lipped afterward, telling reporters only that it was “a good meeting.”
On Wednesday, McConnell applauded the appointment of an inspector general for the oversight of Ukraine aid.
“Thanks in large part to the requirements Senate Republicans have attached to our aid since the beginning of Russia’s escalation, the United States has unprecedented visibility into how Ukraine is using American weapons,” McConnell said in a statement.
Zelenskyy also met with U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Thursday ahead of a Pentagon announcement of a new security package of more air defense and artillery capabilities for Ukraine.
Pentagon press secretary Brigadier General Patrick Ryder told reporters Thursday “everything is on schedule” for the delivery of M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine. He added that if there is a government shutdown, F-16 aircraft training in the U.S. for Ukrainian pilots would still take place.
From the beginning of hostilities in February 2022 to May of this year, the U.S. has provided more than $76.8 billion in assistance, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.
The share of Americans who say the U.S. is providing too much aid to Ukraine has steadily increased since the start of the war, according to a June Pew Research Center survey.
Just 14% of Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters said the amount of U.S. aid to Ukraine was excessive, but more than 44% of Republican and Republican-leaning voters said the amount of aid was too high. One-third of all Americans told Pew that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was a threat to U.S. interests.
On the House side of the U.S. Capitol, where concerns are growing in the Republican majority about continuing U.S. aid to Ukraine, the reception for Zelenskyy was far more muted. Speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries met with the Ukrainian president behind closed doors, but the speaker’s office did not release any photographs of the meeting.
“It was a very candid, open, forward-looking discussion,” Jeffries said in his weekly press conference Thursday.
Jeffries said the war between Ukraine and Russia is “a struggle on the global stage between democracy and autocracy, between freedom and tyranny, between truth and propaganda, between good and evil.”
More conservative members of the Republican majority have objected to passing the Ukraine supplemental request along with funding for the U.S. government.
In an opinion piece published earlier this week by the Fox News network, Republican Representative Mike Waltz wrote that “while most Americans are sympathetic to Ukraine and understand that Russian President Vladimir Putin must be prevented from his goal of recreating the old Soviet Union, President Joe Biden has not been a good-faith partner. The Biden administration has neither explained the American objective in Ukraine nor his strategy to achieve it.”
Waltz went on to call for greater sharing of the burden of aid to Ukraine by European countries and said, “The United States must invest its savings in its own security. It should match the dollar value of any aid it gives to Ukraine with securing our southern border.”
According to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, the U.S. is in the top tier of countries providing aid to Ukraine, giving between 0.25% and 0.45% of its annual gross domestic product to aiding Ukraine, while Scandinavian countries such as Sweden provide slightly more, at 0.75%.
Most Republicans recognize the need for more aid.
“They need it and they’re going to get it,” Republican Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told reporters after Zelenskyy’s meeting Thursday morning with lawmakers.
“The majority support this. I know there’s some dissension on both sides, but as I said, war of attrition is not going to win. That’s what Putin wants because he wants to break the will of the American people and the Europeans. We can’t afford a war of attrition. We need a plan for victory.”
McCaul went on to say that lawmakers pressed Zelenskyy on several issues, including “accountability, speed of weapons [delivery] and a plan for victory.”
But after a full day of meetings, Biden and Zelenskyy took to the the White House in what appeared to be a visceral appeal to the public.
“The people of Ukraine have shown enormous bravery and enormous bravery has inspired the world, really inspired the world with their determination to defend these principles,” Biden said. “And together with our partners and allies, the American people are determined to see to it that we do all we can to ensure the world stands with you.”