On Saturday, a group of congressional Democrats led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif), the most senior American official to visit Ukraine since the war began, paid a surprise visit to Kyiv. Pelosi made the announcement from Poland on Sunday.
“Our discussion centered around the subjects at hand, as you would suspect: security, humanitarian assistance, economic assistance, and eventually rebuilding when victory is won,” said Pelosi, who is now the highest-ranking US official to visit the beleaguered nation.
Her visit follows one by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. They entered the country via train and met with Zelenskyy in a windowless underground bunker in Kyiv on April 24.
“We were proud to convey to him a message of unity from the Congress of the US. A message of appreciation from the American people for his leadership and admiration to the people of Ukraine for their courage,” she said. “America stands with Ukraine, we stand with Ukraine until victory is won, and we stand with NATO.”
She added later that the visit sent “an unmistakable message to the world: that America stands firmly with our NATO allies in our support for Ukraine.”
Зустріч зі спікером Палати представників Конгресу США @SpeakerPelosi в Києві. Сполучені Штати є лідером потужної підтримки України в боротьбі з агресією РФ. Дякуємо, що допомагаєте захищати суверенітет і територіальну цілісність нашої держави! pic.twitter.com/QXSBPFoGQh
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) May 1, 2022
Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo), who was on Pelosi’s junket, said he had come to Ukraine with three areas of focus: “weapons, weapons, and weapons.”
“We have to make sure the Ukrainians have what they need to win,” he said. “What we have seen in the last two months is their ferocity, their intense pride, their ability to fight, and their ability to win – if they have the support to do so.”
Crow said that the new package would increase the scale on which the Ukrainians are able to engage the Russian military.
“You’re starting to see artillery, longer-range fires, more advanced drones, counter-artillery radar systems, things that will help the Ukrainians better engage at further distances to preserve their force but also reach out further and hit the Russian forces,” he said.
Pelosi and Crow were joined by fellow House Democrats Adam Schiff of California, chair of the House Intelligence Committee; New York’s Gregory Meeks, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Committee; Bill Keating and Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Barbara Lee of California. The group spent just over three hours on the ground in Kyiv.
Our Congressional delegation went to Poland & Ukraine to serve as representatives of the American commitment to NATO & to Ukraine. We now return to the U.S. inspired from our engagements & continue our work to further support Ukraine so that Democracy triumphs over dictatorship. pic.twitter.com/ZGkuqc9BL4
— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) May 3, 2022
Zelensky awarded Pelosi with the Order of Princess Olga for her “significant personal contribution” to strengthening Ukrainian and American ties. Olga was the first woman to rule Kievan Rus, a medieval East Slavic state. The order bearing her name is awarded to women who have achieved significant success in politics and society — the personification in Ukraine of female strength.
Zelensky also gave Pelosi a Ukrainian flag signed by him and female members of the Ukrainian Parliament, including those she had met with at the US Capitol recently, according to Hammill, Pelosi’s spokesman.
The visit was a clear partisan push as it came just two days after President Biden asked Congress for $33 billion in additional aid to Ukraine, with the bulk of the package being military aid. Only 10% of the package was earmarked for humanitarian aid.
Biden’s request for the funding was accompanied by fiery rhetoric:
“You will never succeed in dominating Ukraine,” Biden said in remarks at the White House, emphasizing that the new policy was intended “to punish Russian aggression, to lessen the risk of future conflicts.”
While voicing concern for the Ukrainian people, the president has not acted to facilitate negotiations between Ukraine and Russia.
Biden sorely needs such displays to bolster his Ukraine agenda. A recent Pew Research poll showed a divided public opinion. Less than half (47%) of Americans approve of the Biden administration’s handling of the Russian invasion, while about four in ten (39%) disapprove. Roughly a third of Americans (32%) say that the United States is providing about the right amount of support to Ukraine as it fights to hold off the Russian invasion. A larger share – 42% – says the U.S. should be providing more support to Ukraine, while just 7% say it provides too much support. About one-in-five (19%) say they are not sure.