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Russia-Ukraine war: Biden warns of ‘Christmas gift’ to Putin



In a high-stakes meeting at the White House, US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy presented a united front against Russian aggression, even as congressional Republicans cast doubt on further military aid to Ukraine.
Biden warns of ‘Christmas gift’ to Putin
President Biden, in a stark warning, emphasized that Russian President Vladimir Putinis “banking on the United States failing to deliver for Ukraine.” “Congress needs to pass the supplemental funding for Ukraine before they break for the holiday recess, before they give Putin the greatest Christmas gift they could possibly give him,” Biden said.He stressed the importance of proving Putin wrong and maintaining support for Ukraine. “We must, we must, we must prove him wrong,” Biden asserted, vowing that the US would not abandon Ukraine and would continue supplying critical weapons and equipment.
“Congress needs to pass the supplemental funding for Ukraine before they break for the holiday recess, before they give Putin the greatest Christmas gift they could possibly give him,” Biden said.
Why it matters

  • Biden and Zelenskyy presented a united front against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, but their meeting was overshadowed by the impasse in Congress over new military aid for Kyiv.
  • The US president warned that Putin was betting on the US failing to deliver for Ukraine, and vowed to “not walk away” from the embattled ally.
  • The Ukrainian leader expressed hope that the US lawmakers would approve the $60 billion aid package, and rejected any idea of ceding territory to Russia to end the war.
  • Both leaders faced criticism from Republicans, who accused Biden of wasting money and Zelenskyy of being “gross” for lobbying the Senate.

The big picture

  • Russia has intensified its military campaign in Ukraine since February 2022, when it launched a surprise invasion that seized large parts of the country’s east and south.
  • Despite US and European sanctions, Moscow has continued to bomb Ukrainian cities and advance on the ground, claiming to have killed or wounded more than 300,000 Ukrainian troops and captured over 2,000 tanks.
  • Ukraine has resisted the Russian onslaught with the help of US and NATO weapons and equipment, but its resources are running low and its morale is faltering.
  • The White House has warned that without new aid from Congress, Ukraine could face a humanitarian and security catastrophe by the end of the year.

What they’re saying

  • Biden and Zelenskyy tried to project confidence and solidarity in their joint press conference, stressing the importance of defending Ukraine’s sovereignty and democracy.
  • Biden said he had approved an additional $200 million in emergency aid for Ukraine, and promised to “continue to supply Ukraine with critical weapons and equipment as long as we can.”
  • Zelenskyy said he had received “more than positive” signals from both parties in Congress, and thanked Biden for his “unwavering support” for Ukraine.
  • Both leaders also dismissed the possibility of a diplomatic solution that would involve Ukraine giving up any of its territory to Russia, calling it “insane” and “unacceptable.”

Yes, but

  • The bipartisan consensus on Ukraine that existed in Washington for years has eroded under the pressure of domestic politics and foreign policy fatigue. The situation in Washington reflects a growing divide, with Republican leaders like House Speaker Mike Johnson and Senator JD Vance expressing skepticism and criticism of the Biden administration’s approach to Ukraine aid.
  • Republicans have blocked the $60 billion aid bill for Ukraine, demanding that Democrats agree to fund border security and immigration enforcement in exchange.
  • Some GOP lawmakers have also questioned the wisdom and legality of supporting Ukraine’s war effort, echoing Russia’s claims that the US is interfering in a civil conflict and wasting taxpayer money.
  • The Kremlin has exploited the divisions in Washington, mocking the US for failing to help Ukraine on the battlefield and warning that any further escalation would be a “fiasco.”

Looking ahead

  • The fate of Ukraine hangs in the balance as the winter sets in and the fighting intensifies.
  • The deadlock in Congress over aid and immigration policy poses a challenge for US foreign policy.
  • The Ukrainian conflict remains a central issue in the lead-up to the 2024 US presidential and congressional elections.
  • The outcome of these negotiations could significantly impact the future course of the war in Ukraine.
  • Biden and Zelenskyy said they would continue to work together to counter Russia’s aggression and seek a peaceful resolution of the conflict, based on the 2015 Minsk agreements that call for a ceasefire and a political dialogue.
  • But the prospects for a diplomatic breakthrough are dim, as Russia shows no sign of backing down and Ukraine refuses to make any concessions.
  • The US and its allies will have to decide whether to increase their support for Ukraine or risk losing it to Russia’s expansionism.

(With inputs from agencies)

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