Joe Biden approves more military aid as Volodymyr Zelensky visits Washington
Washington : US President Joe Biden pledged to his visiting Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky to offer military aid, mentioning in particular the Patriot surface-to-air missile battery he just approved for Ukraine in a new tranche of security assistance totaling $1.85 billion.
The weapons package approved by Biden, according to a list from the Pentagon, also included “precision aerial munitions”, which it didn’t explain in detail regarding the type and quantity, reports Xinhua news agency.
According to US media reports, they might be the so-called “Joint Direct Attack Munitions,” which would transform the unguided “dumb” bombs into “smart” bombs by the addition of fins and a precision guidance system.
Arriving in the US Wednesday for a visit, his first trip abroad since Russia launched its ongoing invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Zelensky told Biden he wished to “come earlier” but was unable to because of the once difficult situation in his war-torn nation that has now been under control.
Although Zelensky was effusive in his praise for Biden, he didn’t mince words when it came to the Patriot battery — the most advanced weapon system the US has offered and something Zelensky has long asked for.
He told his counterpart that just one such item is not enough for Ukraine. “We would like to get more Patriots,” Zelensky said to laughter from Biden, who stood next to him during a joint press conference held after their bilateral meeting.
Biden stressed that the US is committed to ensuring that Ukraine continues to have the ability to defend itself “as long as it takes” during the press conference. Zelensky told reporters that he floated to Biden the idea of a “global formula for a peace summit” and offered “very specific steps what America can do to help us implement them”.
He didn’t elaborate further. The Ukrainian leader said later while delivering a speech at a joint session of Congress that the peace plan he proposed contains “10 points”, that the summit “can be held”, and that “President Biden supported our peace initiative today”.
However, John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communication, told CNN during a live coverage prior to Zelensky’s congressional speech that while Biden “obviously wants to seek a just peace in accordance with what Ukrainian President Zelensky desires”, as regards the peace summit, the administration will have to “study that a little bit more”.
In his address to lawmakers, Zelensky requested for more weapons from the US, saying: “We have artillery, yes, thank you. Is it enough? Honestly, not really.” On Tuesday morning, the House Appropriations Committee released the “Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2023”, which will provide Ukraine with $45 billion in emergency assistance.
It is contained in a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government through fiscal year 2023. That $45 billion sum represents the biggest infusion of Washington’s aid to Kiev, surpassing even the White House’s request made to Congress last month to ask for a $37 billion appropriation aimed at helping Ukraine in the ongoing conflict.
Kevin McCarthy, Republican member of the House who is expected to become the next Speaker, said after attending the joint session that Zelensky gave a “good speech,” but “my position has never changed. I support Ukraine, but I never support a blank check”.