The funding is part of a $111 billion supplemental that bundles aid for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and border security. Republican disagreements over border policy have kept the legislation from advancing, which has allowed Putin to see his “dreams come true,” Zelenskyy said.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin introduced Zelenskyy, and couched American aid for Ukraine as the key to supporting a global struggle for freedom against tyranny, a theme picked up by the Ukrainian leader.
“Ukraine matters profoundly to America’s security and to the trajectory of global security in the 21st century,” Austin said.
“We are determined to show the world that America will not flinch in our defense of freedom, if we do not stand up to the Kremlin’s aggression today, if we do not deter other would-be aggressors, we will only invite more aggression, more bloodshed and more chaos,” he said.
Zelenskyy reached back to the fall of the Soviet Union, making the case, as others have, that Putin is seeking to rebuild that old Soviet empire, piece by piece, beginning with Ukraine.
Putin, the former KGB agent and Soviet apparatchik, has said so himself at various times over the years, most famously at the Munich Security Conference in 2007 where he roundly rejected the Western-led international order and decried NATO expanding closer to Russia’s borders.
Zelenskyy on Monday said that “Russia’s war on Ukraine isn’t just about some old-fashioned dictatorship trying to settle scores, real or imagined. It’s Putin attacking that big shift that happened back in 1989.”
Putin’s “real target is the freedom people enjoy from Warsaw to Chicago to Yokohama, he is trying to make democratic countries lose hope, pushing the idea that dictatorships with a bit of market economy are winning this global faceoff,” he said.
The Ukrainian leader’s visit was preceded by another delegation from Kyiv last week that participated in meetings aimed at securing co-production deals between U.S. and Ukrainian defense companies to allow Ukraine to produce its own weaponry.
“The goal is to build a security base to recover the defense industry” in Ukraine, Alexander Kamyshin, who runs the Ministry of Strategic Industries, said in an interview.
“There are several companies from the U.S. side and there are several companies from the Ukrainian side working on those projects,” he added.
The plan is for much of the work to be done by U.S. and European companies, which will then train Ukrainian workers as investments are made in rebuilding some industrial capability inside Ukraine. The goal is to eventually become an exporter of specific weapons and equipment such as drones, where Ukrainian engineers have made strides.
“It’s a great case where we show how we can together deliver to those markets that were never ready to buy Western equipment, but still have Soviet legacy systems and finally want to get far from Russia,” Kamyshin said. “Once the war is over, we could be exporting together with our partners to those markets that never existed for our partners.”
Referring to an industrial conference that was held last week, which was attended by 350 people from across NATO governments and the defense industry, Kamishyn said he was “quite happy with the political signal that industry got” from the White House “so now we’ll have to work it out. It’s a long way ahead. We’ve got to work quickly to bring back home some solutions for defense.”
Zelenskyy will head to the White House on Tuesday, where President Joe Biden will “underscore the United States’ unshakable commitment” to Kyiv as it struggles to push Russian forces out of the 20 percent of Ukrainian territory they still control after the February 2022 full-scale invasion, Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary said on Sunday.
“As Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, the leaders will discuss Ukraine’s urgent needs and the vital importance of the United States’ continued support at this critical moment,” Jean-Pierre said.