WASHINGTON--U.S. President Joe Biden assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Thursday that strong U.S. support for his war to repel Russian invaders will be maintained despite opposition from some Republican lawmakers to sending billions more in aid. Biden and Zelenskiy held a war council in the White House East Room as part of a blizzard of appearances the Ukraine leader made looking to bolster U.S. support for a war that began in February 2022 and has no end in sight.
"Mr. President, we're with you, we're staying with you," Biden told Zelenskiy before reaching across the table and shaking his hand after two hours of talks. Zelenskiy thanked Biden for a new $325 million military aid package of weaponry and air defenses, saying "it has exactly what our soldiers need now." He said he and Biden agreed on specific steps to expand the export of grain from Ukraine in the face of a Russian blockade and tensions with neighbor Poland. He did not detail the steps. Biden's request for $24 million in more Ukraine funding to help pay for Ukraine's defense and humanitarian aid through the end of the year is bottled up in a budget fight pushed by Republican hardliners in the House of Representatives. Asked how to overcome the opposition, Biden said the only way was approval by the U.S. Congress.
“I’m counting on the good judgment of the United States Congress. There’s no alternative," he said. Comments from Republican Senator Rand Paul, a frequent critic of foreign aid, were emblematic of the opposition. He told Fox Business News that Ukraine is a "corrupt regime" and that the war has no end in sight. Biden said the first American Abrams tanks will be delivered to Ukraine next week. "Just as we're committed to helping Ukraine defend itself now, we're also committed to helping them recover and rebuild in the future, including supporting reforms that will combat corruption," Biden said. Biden said Washington would also send Ukraine a second Raytheon-built Hawk air defense battery and related equipment. A U.S. official said the equipment would arrive in Ukraine soon. After seeking international support at the United Nations on Wednesday, Zelenskiy came to Washington on a blitz across town that included meetings with military leaders at the Pentagon, a visit to the U.S. Capitol and an address in the evening at the National Archives museum. In announcing a new $325 million military aid package for Ukraine, Biden lauded the bravery of the Ukrainian people when he and Zelenskiy met earlier in the Oval Office.
"Together with our partners and allies, the American people are determined to see to it to that (we do) all we can to ensure that the world stands with you," Biden said in comments at the start of their meeting. Zelenskiy said Ukraine greatly appreciates U.S. assistance "to combat Russian terror" and said he would discuss Ukraine's defense needs with Biden, with a special emphasis on air defense. "Today I'm in Washington to strengthen our ability to defend Ukrainian children, our families, our homes, freedom and democracy in the world," he added.