In Wake of U.S. Election, Ukrainian Lawmakers Will Reach Out to Washington

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KYIV, Ukraine — Throughout the war with Russia, Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, has complained about the reluctance of the United States to provide the powerful and accurate weapons his country needed. Until recently, he had not had to worry that the flow might be reduced or even cut off.

But in the weeks before Election Day in the United States, with a drumbeat of predictions about a Republican sweep of both houses of Congress, those fears grew uncomfortably real as leading Republicans spoke about reviewing the “blank check” policy for Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials, schooled in American politics and the need for bipartisan support, remained steadfastly apolitical in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s vote. On Wednesday, as the predicted red wave seemed to be more of a ripple, officials expressed cautious optimism that the existential threat of an aid cutoff had diminished.

Volodymyr Ariev, a lawmaker with the opposition European Solidarity Party, said of particular concern would be the scale of victories for far-left or far-right candidates, Democrat or Republican, who have been critical of Ukraine aid or advocated a quick diplomatic settlement that would be anathema to the Ukrainian government.

Mr. Ariev, who is organizing a delegation of Ukrainian lawmakers to visit Washington in December, said, “We understand one thing: The danger we see from the so-called radical wings of both parties, the far-right Republicans and far-left Democrats. They could start a conversation about stopping aid to Ukraine.”

Ukraine, he said, should work to retain bipartisan support regardless of the outcome. “We need to maintain our contacts and communication with both parties. We need to extend it, we need to intensify it, and we need to talk to both parties for support.”

The United States is by far the largest foreign supplier of weaponry to the Ukrainian Army. But through the course of the war, the Biden administration has carefully calibrated weapons assistance to Ukraine, holding back longer-range and more powerful weapons for fear of Ukrainian strikes on Russian territory that might drag NATO into the war.

The United States has nevertheless stepped up to ever more powerful and sophisticated artillery and rocket launchers as the war has progressed, and just this week delivered a leading-edge air defense missile system, called NASAM, to defend against strikes by missiles and Iranian-made drones on cities and electrical power plants.

Mr. Ariev said the delegation would include about a dozen members of Parliament from the ruling party, Servant of the People, and the principal opposition parties, European Solidarity, Fatherland and Holos. They will attend a security conference and seek meetings with newly elected American lawmakers from the Democratic and Republican parties, he said.

Mr. Ariev said he would propose a larger role for the U.S. Congress and government agencies in overseeing American military and financial aid inside Ukraine, to “lift suspicions we heard during the campaign that it is not transparent.”

He added: “We should trust our partners as our partners trust us, it should be a mutual thing.”

But they are not entirely sure who their partners will be.

In a White House news conference about the midterms on Wednesday, President Biden insisted that he believed foreign aid would continue uninterrupted to Ukraine.

A majority of Republicans have so far supported assistance for Ukraine over the nearly nine months since the invasion, voting for billions of dollars in military and financial aid.

But the more conservative, America First wing of the party has been more threatening. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia told a rally of Trump supporters in Iowa last week that, “under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine.” J.D. Vance, who won his Senate race in Ohio, had said while campaigning that, “We’ve got to stop the money spigot to Ukraine eventually.”

And in the event that the Republicans take the House, Representative Kevin McCarthy, who stands to become majority leader, has said that the party will review aid to Ukraine. “I think people are going to be sitting in a recession, and they’re not going to write a blank check to Ukraine,” he said last month.

The left wing of the Democratic Party, the Progressive Caucus, published a letter in October asking Mr. Biden to pursue direct diplomatic talks with Russia over the war, despite Russian escalations over the fall. But the group quickly retracted the letter, saying it had been prepared in June and released in error.

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, visiting Kyiv last week, offered assurances that the Biden administration would work with both parties to assure military aid would continue after the election.

Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, said on Wednesday that he anticipated no softening of American support after the election.

“I have repeatedly met with representatives of the Senate and Congress, and each time the delegations were bipartisan,” Mr. Resnikov said at a news conference. “I clearly understand that the support of the United States will remain bipartisan and bicameral, too. I have a personal understanding and feeling that the overwhelming majority of the American people support Ukraine in this unjust war.”

Yehor Chernev, a member of Parliament with the ruling Servant of the People party, who will join the Ukrainian delegation, said he would seek to explain Ukraine’s security needs to newly elected members of Congress.

“We had long conversations about tanks and jets,” he said of the Ukrainian government’s talks with allies over providing more capable versions of the weapons Ukraine is currently using. “And, still, nothing has been given yet. We could explain why we really need these things now in our counteroffensive, because it will help us move faster.”

Mr. Chernev said he would also argue that military aid to Ukraine serves United States security interests.

“We are ready to speak with all members of Congress and to deliver our position, and to give more information, and arguments that will change their position on Ukraine,” he said. “The United States cannot allow Russia to win. It will mean authoritarians win their wars. It will open a Pandora’s box in other parts of the world. Why not China next?”


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