Biden announces $325 million military aid package during a White House meeting with Zelenskyy

Biden announces $325 million military aid package during a White House meeting with Zelenskyy

The U.S. will provide Ukraine with an additional $325 million in military aid, President Joe Biden announced Thursday during a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The package includes air defense capabilities, cluster munitions, anti-tank weapons and other equipment.

“Today I approved the next tranche of U.S. security assistance to Ukraine including more artillery, more ammunition, more anti-tank weapons and next week, the first U.S. Abrams tanks will be delivered to Ukraine,” Biden said. “We also focused on strengthening Ukraine’s air defense capabilities to protect the critical infrastructure that provides heat and light during the coldest and darkest days of the year.”

The announcement was made during Zelenskyy’s visit to Washington, D.C., where he appealed to lawmakers and administration officials for more assistance.

Ahead of the meeting, National Security Council senior director for Europe, Amanda Sloat, discussed the aid package on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports.”

“It’s the fourth package that we will have announced in six weeks,” Sloat said, adding that air defense “is the most critical capability that the Ukrainians need now.”

Sloat added that the new package will not include long-range ballistic missiles that are equipped with cluster munitions — tiny bomblets that disperse widely on a target. She noted, however, that Biden has not ruled out providing them in the future.

This package is separate from the additional $24 billion that the president wants Congress to approve for Ukraine.   

Before the meeting began in the Oval Office, Biden and Zelenskyy gave brief remarks to the press. Biden said that no nation will be secure if the U.S. does not help Ukraine in defending its territory against Russia. Zelenskyy thanked Biden and Congress for frank and constructive dialogues during their meetings on Thursday.

Zelenskyy emphasized that the focus of the meeting with the president would be on air defense capabilities. National security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken were seen in the back of the room.

Biden’s meeting with Zelenskyy comes as part of the Ukrainian leader’s second trip to Washington since Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022.

Earlier in the day, the Ukrainian leader met with a bipartisan group of House members in the morning and met with about 70 senators shortly after. A number of Republicans, especially those in the House, are skeptical about approving more aid to Ukraine.

In the meeting with senators, Zelenskyy took half a dozen questions on topics including a plan for victory and what Ukrainians need most from the U.S. in terms of financial and military aid.

Follow live updates on the Zelenskyy visit

Biden and Zelenskyy met in the Oval Office, followed by an expanded bilateral meeting in the East Room with other top administration officials including Vice President Kamala Harris.

The first ladies of both nations are participating in the visit as well.

Zelenskyy’s trip to Washington also included a meeting at the Pentagon with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

Biden previously reiterated support for Ukraine and emphasized that “Russia alone bears responsibility for this war” in his Tuesday speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City.

“If we allow Ukraine to be carved up, is the independence of any nation secure? I’d respectfully suggest the answer is no,” Biden said in his speech. “We have to stand up to this naked aggression today and deter other would-be aggressors tomorrow.”

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Thursday that he declined a request from Zelenskyy to address a joint session of Congress because of time constraints given the busy legislative week, in remarks first reported by Punchbowl News. McCarthy also noted that Zelensky had already addressed Congress.

Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., blasted McCarthy for his decision not to hold a joint address for Zelenskyy, telling NBC News that “there was a possibility that we could have had a joint session, but apparently the House decided that they didn’t have time to do it, which is disappointing.”

“Guess they have their hands full,” Rounds quipped.

Zelenskyy’s visit comes the same day a group of congressional Republicans sent a letter to Director of the Office of Management and Budget Shalanda Young about Ukraine funding requests, arguing that “it would be an absurd abdication of congressional responsibility to grant” the request without having further details about how the money is used, the Ukrainians’ strategy and Biden’s exit plan. The letter was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

In Washington, Zelenskyy met for a little more than an hour with senators on Capitol Hill. He spoke entirely in English, without the use of translators, according to two Senators in the room.

“He was exceptionally good today,” said Sen. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., who has questioned and voted against aid for Ukraine in the past.

Zelenskyy was “extremely personable,” Rounds said, adding that the closed-door nature of the meeting allowed senators to have a more intimate conversation with the Ukrainian president.

Asked if there was concern that Congress would not approve aid, Rounds shot back that there was “more than enough” support in both chambers.

Both Biden and Zelenskyy attended the U.N. General Assembly this week, and they previously met in July during the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. Zelenskyy visited Washington in December and delivered an address to a joint meeting of Congress. He also met with Biden at the White House during the December trip.

“Ukraine is alive and kicking,” he said in his previous speech to Congress. “Ukraine holds its lines and will never surrender.”

Congress has appropriated more than $113 billion for the U.S. response to the war in Ukraine, according to a March release from the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General.

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