Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to meet with President Biden and address Congress, as the US has pledged an extensive new weapons package to the embattled country.
We’ll share what was said during the meeting and Biden’s promises to Ukraine. Also: We’ll check what’s in the new lethal aid package, and the Senate confirms the newest ambassador to Russia.
This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill, and beyond. For CNNBreakingNews, I’m Ellen Mitchell. Did a friend forward this newsletter to you? Sign up here or in the box below.
Biden: The US will stand by Ukraine “as long as it lasts”
President Biden promised on Wednesday that he would stand by Ukraine “as long as necessary” during a press conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and promised to help Kiev win on the battlefield before peace talks with Moscow could take place.
Biden’s remarks, made during Zelenski’s unprecedented visit to Washington, underscored the view that US support for Ukraine — military, economic, and humanitarian — must continue indefinitely in the future.
What was said: Biden also suggested that ending the war would mean Ukraine’s victory on the battlefield, which would also strengthen future potential talks between Zelensky and the Kremlin.
- “We will help Ukraine be successful on the battlefield — if and when President Zelensky is ready to talk to the Russians, he will also be successful because he won on the battlefield,” Biden said.
- Zelensky repeated the president’s statements that a “just peace” for Ukraine consists in ensuring that the entire territory of the country is liberated — and secured — by Russia.
No compromises: “For me as president, a just peace means no compromises in terms of my country’s sovereignty, freedom and territorial integrity, no repayment for all damage caused by Russian aggression,” Zelensky said.
The historic wartime press conference in the White House came against the backdrop of the Biden administration’s recent support for Ukraine during its war with Russia, particularly in the form of an additional $2 billion in security and humanitarian aid, including a Patriot missile battery, an advanced air defense system designed to help Ukraine combat Russia’s targeted attacks on the country’s energy and electricity infrastructure.
Winter as a weapon: “Russia is using winter as a weapon,” Biden said. “Freeze people, starve people, cut them off from each other. It is the latest example of the appalling atrocities committed by the Russians against innocent Ukrainian civilians, children and their families.”
Praise: Biden also praised Ukraine’s military successes, saying, “Ukraine won the Battle of Kiev, won the Battle of Kherson, won the Battle of Kharkiv, defied Russia’s expectations at every turn,” and praised Zelensky for being open to striving “for peace, a just peace.”
Future dangers: However, the president added: “We know that Putin has no intention of ending this cruel war.”
Zelensky and his senior officials have warned in recent days that Russia is preparing to renew its invasion of Ukraine with a massive ground offensive involving an estimated 200,000 troops.
A historic visit: Zelensky spoke about the historic nature of his visit to Washington, his first trip outside Ukraine since a large-scale invasion of Russia began in February, and said the main task of his trip was to “strengthen Ukraine.”
The Ukrainian president, who also addresses a joint session of Congress on Wednesday, raised concerns that some Republicans have spoken out against continued US support for Kiev, even though the majority of Democratic and Republican lawmakers have pledged to support Ukraine.
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The USA is sending the Patriot system to Ukraine in a new package
The United States will send a Patriot missile battery to Ukraine for the first time as part of a major weapons package worth $1.85 billion, the Pentagon said on Wednesday.
The solution: The new lethal assistance, announced along with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington, D.C., includes a billion dollars in presidential drawdown powers, which prompts the US military to pull weapons from its own stocks to send to Kiev.
An additional $850 million in assistance will be provided through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, meaning that the Department of Defense will buy directly from industry.
An important weapon: The package will include a Patriot air defense battery and ammunition. The vehicle-mounted system is designed to hit medium and high-altitude targets such as rockets, fighter aircraft, bombers, and drones to protect military and civilian targets.
“Russia’s relentless and brutal air strikes against critical infrastructure have only reinforced the need to provide Ukraine with sophisticated air defense capabilities,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “On instructions from President Biden, the United States has prioritized providing air defense systems to help Ukraine protect its people from Russian aggression.”
Initial hesitation: Until now, the United States had held off sending the Patriot system to Ukraine because it feared that the war could escalate. However, the Biden administration has changed its position after weeks of deliberation over the top-secret technology the weapon contains.
Also included: The weapons package also includes additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), 500 precision-guided 155 mm artillery rounds, mortar systems and projectiles, 37 mine-resistant Cougar vehicles with ambush, 120 highly mobile multi-purpose vehicles, six armored commercial vehicles, high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARMs), precision air ammunition, 2,700 grenade launchers and small arms and other equipment and weapons.
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Also from CNNBreakingNews:
- How the US Patriot missile systems could impact the war between Russia and Ukraine
- Live coverage: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses Congress
Ambassador to Russia named ahead of Zelensky’s visit
The Senate confirmed Lynne Tracy as the new US ambassador to Russia on Wednesday and backed her nomination on the same day that Ukrainian President Washington pays a historic visit that underlines support for Kiev in the face of the Russian invasion.
Tracy will assume diplomatic office at a time when relations between the USA and Russia are at a low point and contacts between Moscow and Washington are limited to the highest levels of government and only on the most sensitive issues.
The vote: The Senate confirmed Tracy 93 to 2, with Senators Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) both voting “no.”
- Tracy, who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Armenia, is tasked with “standing up to Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said ahead of the Senate vote.
- Schumer said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “couldn’t come at a more crucial time for the Senate,” and urged the chamber to pass a further $45 billion in emergency funding for Ukraine for fiscal year 2023 as part of Congress’s extensive year-end funding bill.
About the role: Tracy arrives in Moscow after the previous ambassador John Sullivan left office in September shortly before his wife died.
The role of the ambassador in Moscow is seen as an important means of communication with the Kremlin to promote US interests. This includes the resumption of talks on nuclear non-proliferation — the latest talks were “postponed” by Russia over US support for Ukraine.
Tracy is also tasked with securing the release of Paul Whelan, an American who has been jailed in Moscow since 2018 and convicted of espionage. The Biden government has criticized his detention as unfair, supporting Whelan’s and his family’s claims that the espionage allegations are fabricated.
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WHAT WE READ
- Why Belarus is important for the war between Russia and Ukraine
- Biden Welcomes Zelensky to White House
- Biden says Putin is using “winter as a weapon”
- White House cyber adviser resigns
- Pelosi Welcomes Zelensky to the Capitol
- Zelensky: “Just peace” is hard to imagine for Ukrainian parents seeking vengeance
- According to senior Russian official, the military must increase to 1.5 million employees
- Zelensky defies US visit and vows to recapture all seized territory
That’s it for today. For the latest coverage, visit CNNBreakingNews’ Defense and National Security pages. I’ll see you tomorrow!