Zelensky Will Address U.S. Senators Before Vote on Ukraine Aid

President Volodymyr Zelensky will make a direct appeal to U.S. senators on Tuesday aimed at reminding lawmakers ahead of a key vote what is at stake if they fail to quickly approve emergency military aid for his nation.

Republican support for funding Ukraine’s war effort is waning and an emergency funding package is stalled in Congress. With the Democratic-led Senate set to vote on Wednesday whether to approve more than $61 billion in Ukraine-focused assistance as part of a $106 billion national security package, Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said had invited Mr. Zelensky to brief lawmakers.

In a confidential video call on Tuesday, the Ukrainian leader is expected to give senators updates on the state of the fighting and stress the urgency of maintaining American financial and military backing.

“America’s national security is on the line,” Mr. Schumer said from the Senate floor on Monday evening.

“If Ukraine falls, Putin will keep on going,” he added. “Autocrats around the world will be emboldened. Democracy, this grand and noble experiment, will enter an era of decline.”

Mr. Zelensky’s address to senators — a day after the White House warned that the United States would soon run out of money to send weapons to his country — comes at perhaps the most uncertain moment for Ukraine since the first chaotic months of the war.

Ukraine urgently needs more ammunition and other weapons to try to turn the tide on the battlefield. The country’s counteroffensive against entrenched Russian forces in southern Ukraine has so far failed to meet its objectives, and Moscow’s forces have been going on the offensive in the east.

Mr. Zelensky has acknowledged the breadth of challenges facing Ukraine nearly two years into a war — from its struggles to advance on the battlefield to the need to improve recruitment and training of soldiers as losses mount.

Domestic politics in Ukraine has started to reassert itself, with local media fixated on any potential signs of division between Mr. Zelensky’s government and military leadership. But U.S. politics has also taken a front seat as a growing faction of Republicans have voiced concerns about providing Mr. Zelensky’s government with more financial support.

Republicans twice refused to include military aid for Ukraine in stopgap spending bills to keep the government funded this autumn, insisting that any money should be tied to border security.

On Monday, Shalanda D. Young, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, wrote an open letter to House and Senate leaders in both parties saying that cutting off the flow of funding and weapons would “kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield.”

“We are out of money — and nearly out of time,” she wrote.

The warning from Washington echoed in Ukraine, where officials have for months been making the case for continued military assistance.

The alternative would be “catastrophic,” Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Mr. Zelensky, said on social media on Tuesday.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has made it clear he is investing in a long war: Nearly a third of the country’s spending next year — roughly $109 billion — will be devoted to “national defense,” according to a budget he signed into law last week.

Despite the bloody fighting, the front line has remained largely static over the past year. While Ukrainian forces have regained little ground, they have expended enormous amounts of ammunition to hold the line.

Mr. Zelensky has repeatedly warned of the risks that dwindling U.S. military assistance would pose while also seeking ways to bolster domestic weapons production. In recent weeks, he has expressed concern that the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza could distract allies and potentially undermine support for Ukraine.

“Our deliveries have decreased,” Mr. Zelensky told reporters on Nov. 16, referring specifically to 155-millimeter shells, saying “they really slowed down.”

He also has worked to send a clear message to the Biden administration that his government is working hard to tackle issues like corruption — a longstanding issue in Ukraine that some Republicans have pointed to as an argument against further aid.

Mr. Zelensky replaced his defense minister, Oleksii Reznikov, in September amid revelations of suspected embezzlement in military procurement. Later that month, the White House gave Ukraine a list of “priority reforms” to undertake — namely shoring up anticorruption efforts — that suggested future aid would be linked to implementing the changes.

Some of those efforts were on public display in Kyiv on Tuesday, where officials held a conference on anti-graft policies in the Ukrainian government called “Integrity: The Future of Ukrainian Society.”

Anastasia Radina, the head of the Anticorruption Committee in Ukraine’s Parliament, was one of about 100 people in attendance. She said that there was no risk of corruption around the donation of weapons from allies, describing a bar-code system used to track the arms.

Ms. Radina also said she had visited Washington last month to discuss Ukraine’s anticorruption overhauls with members of Congress.

“I see that the partners are asking us to do the very things the Ukrainian population wants us to do,” she said, adding that “the partners are not asking anything beyond what our own people want.”

Andrew E. Kramer contributed reporting.

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