Zelenskyy told Congress continued aid is an investment in global security. Is it?
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told a joint meeting of Congress last night U.S. aid can speed up a Ukrainian victory over Russia.
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PRESIDENT VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY: Your money is not charity. It's an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.
FADEL: During Zelenskyy's surprise visit to Washington, President Biden announced another $1.8 billion in additional military assistance to Ukraine and said more is on the way. Joining us now is Amanda Sloat, senior director for Europe on the National Security Council. Good morning, Amanda. Thanks for being on the program.
AMANDA SLOAT: Good morning. Thanks for having me.
FADEL: So, Amanda, we heard there Zelenskyy call U.S. aid not charity but an investment in global security - 2.2 billion in more defense and humanitarian aid announced yesterday. The omnibus spending bill that Congress is sending to the president includes 45 billion more in support for Ukraine, plus the more than 65 billion already spent. Is it too much?
SLOAT: We don't believe so. The Ukrainian people have been fighting valiantly for 301 days now to defend their democracy, their sovereignty, their territorial integrity. And this is a fight that matters globally. This is about more than just Ukraine. This is about defending the principles enshrined in the U.N. charter.
FADEL: Now, a number of prominent Republicans have been saying Ukraine doesn't get a blank check here. They are poised to take the House - control of the House soon. Was this Zelenskyy visit and address to Congress a plea to them?
SLOAT: I think this was an opportunity for him to speak to Congress, to the president and to the American people. President Zelenskyy last night laid out very eloquently what the people of Ukraine are fighting for, why it matters for the families of Ukraine who are spending much of their time this Christmas in darkness. And he also put it into a broader context, including historically, about why the defense of these shared values matter more broadly.
FADEL: Now, the latest military support from the U.S. includes a battery of Patriot missiles, which Ukraine has been asking for. And now the U.S. is sending them. Has something changed that prompted this decision?
SLOAT: Russia has been increasingly aggressive over the last number of weeks and months in targeting the critical infrastructure in Ukraine. As I said, many families are spending Christmas in cold and darkness. And so as Russia has continued its brutal attacks on the critical infrastructure, the Ukrainians made clear that air defense was a more critical need. The United States has evolved in the types of assistance that we have provided to Ukraine throughout the battle. And increasingly, over the last number of weeks and months, we have started to send air defense systems, including things like NASAMS and Stingers and Hawk missiles. And so the decision was made that it was critically important now to get them a Patriot battery that would enable them to more effectively defend this critical infrastructure that's under attack.
FADEL: Now, as you point out, it's going to be a very difficult Christmas for Ukrainians under attack. And Moscow has actually warned that supplying Patriots would be seen as a provocation. Do you think this might, then, escalate things?
SLOAT: Patriots are a defensive weapons system...
SLOAT: ...That will help Ukraine defend itself as Russia sends missile after missile and drone after drone to try and destroy Ukrainian infrastructure and kill Ukrainian civilians. If Russia doesn't want their missiles shot down, Russia should stop sending them into Ukraine.
FADEL: Now, the U.S. says European allies are facing tremendous pressures - hardships with energy and gas supplies, food shortages, a hard winter setting in. Is there concern that the international coalition for Ukraine could splinter under this strain?
SLOAT: So far, we haven't seen that. President Biden has been incredibly active over the period of the conflict in terms of building an international coalition and rallying an international coalition. And even over the last number of weeks, President Biden has continued to do that, including engaging with African leaders during the summit here in Washington a couple weeks ago, during his trip to Asia, when he met with ASEAN leaders, when he met with leaders at the G-20. And so far, we have seen very strong resolve in Europe. For many countries that went through World War I, World War II, they understand the broader principles of democracy and freedom that are at stake here.
FADEL: And just in the last few seconds we have left, this morning, Kremlin saying that this is the U.S. fighting a proxy war against Russia - of course, this war provoked by Russia, unprompted, no reason. But I want to get your response to their accusation.
SLOAT: Russia clearly is the aggressor here. President Putin could stop this war today if he wants. Ukraine is not looking to fight. Ukraine and President Zelenskyy have made clear that they want just peace. And all the United States has been doing is giving Ukraine the ability to defend itself against this aggression.
FADEL: Amanda Sloat, senior director for Europe at the National Security Council. Thanks for joining us.
SLOAT: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.