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The Zoolanski Double Header
▶️ Zelesnky To Visit Congress On Wednesday
✪ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to visit Congress on Wednesday, according to a report released on Tuesday.
Punchbowl News reported that Zelensky could visit the Capitol Building; however, the visit could be called off due to security concerns.
If Zelensky makes the journey, it will mark his first trip to Washington since the Russian invasion began Feb. 24 — exactly 300 days ago. It would also be Zelensky’s first time leaving Ukraine since Russia’s renewed aggression began.
In a letter on Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urged lawmakers to come to the Capitol on Wednesday night for a “very special focus on Democrat Wednesday night.”
Zelensky is likely to meet with congressional leadership and heads of national security-related committees.
The Ukrainian leader’s potential visit to Washington, DC, would come as Congress is working to pass a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill, which would provide Ukraine with $45 billion in military and economic aid. Congress has already appropriated Ukraine $66 billion in aid.
House Republicans are expected to vote en masse against the omnibus bill, which contains the Ukraine aid. It will be interesting to see whether the Zelensky visit sways the GOP skeptics, who have grown their ranks in recent weeks as former President Donald Trump and other influential conservatives rail against new money for Ukraine.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said that the number one priority for Republicans is to provide more aid to Ukraine. The omnibus bill would also create a Ukrainian Independence Park in Washington, DC.
Pelosi said on Tuesday night that a potential Zelensky visit would bring “honor to Congress:”
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CNN reported that President Joe Biden and Zelensky also plan to meet at the White House on Wednesday. ✪
▶️ Biden To Meet With Zelensky At The White House
✪ President Joe Biden plans to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, in his latest effort to show solidarity with Ukraine after the Russian invasion.
The president’s public schedule remains empty, but reports noted Tuesday that Zelensky would travel to Washington, DC, and appear in person on Capitol Hill to lobby for continued support for his country. (UPDATE: Zelensky himself confirmed the news of his trip on Wednesday at 1:00 a.m. EST. The White House confirmed plans for Biden and Zelensky to meet and participate in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.)
Zelensky will not leave Washington, DC, without a warm welcome from Biden, as reports detail plans for the Ukrainian president to visit the White House.
The president has taken pride in his unfailing support for Ukraine after Russia invaded, rallying American allies to their cause. “The idea that Putin is ever going to defeat Ukraine is beyond comprehension,” Biden said earlier in December after meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the ongoing conflict.
Biden is eager to announce his decision to provide Patriot missile systems to Ukraine, according to reports, to bolster their defense against Russia, an announcement that is likely to solidify America’s support.
Ukraine has been calling for the US to send the advanced long-range air defense system that is highly effective at intercepting ballistic and cruise missiles as it comes under a barrage of Russian missile and drone attacks that have destroyed key infrastructure across the country.
A Patriot missile battery would be the most effective long-range defensive weapons system sent to the country and officials say it will help secure airspace for NATO nations in eastern Europe. CNN first reported last week that the US was planning to send Patriot systems to Ukraine.
It is not clear how many missile launchers will be sent but a typical Patriot battery includes a radar set that detects and tracks targets, computers, power generating equipment, an engagement control station and up to eight launchers, each holding four ready-to-fire missiles.
Once the plans are finalized, the Patriots are expected to ship quickly in the coming days and Ukrainians will be trained to use them at a US Army base in Grafenwoehr, Germany, officials said.
Ukraine has been asking for the system for months but the logistical challenges of delivering it and operating it are immense. Despite those obstacles, “the reality of what is going on the ground” led the administration to make the decision, the senior administration official told CNN, noting the continuing intense Russian missile barrages.
Unlike smaller air defense systems, Patriot missile batteries need much larger crews, requiring dozens of personnel to properly operate them. The training for Patriot missile batteries normally takes multiple months, a process the United States will now carry out under the pressure of near-daily aerial attacks from Russia.
Plans are underway for Zelensky to address Congress on Wednesday night, although they are not confirmed due to security reasons.
Congress is already working on providing an additional $45 billion in military and economic aid for Ukraine in the massive $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill currently making its way through Congress.
The additional spending is on top of the existing $66 billion already approved by Congress for Ukraine and its defense.
News of funding for a proposed Ukrainian Independence Park in Washington, DC, also emerged after members of Congress released the text of the massive spending package. ✪
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