Democratic senators visit Kyiv as US announces nearly $4 billion in military assistance

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky
Greg Nash
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is seen as Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) makes a statement during a photo op following their meeting at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, December 21, 2022.

Two key Democratic senators with oversight of intelligence and the armed services met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Friday, shortly before the Biden administration announced a nearly $4 billion military aid package for the country.

Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Angus King (I-Maine), both members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and Armed Services Committee, also met with senior Ukrainian officials and members of the U.S. embassy. 

Reed, who is chairman of the Armed Services Committee, tweeted that he traveled with King to show solidarity with “brave Ukrainians fighting to defend their homeland from Russian invasion” and called the meeting with Zelensky “productive.”

The senators gave a brief press conference in central Kyiv, where King said part of the mission of the trip was to exercise “accountability” for U.S. funding to Ukraine.

The Biden administration announced on Friday $3.75 billion in new military assistance for Ukraine. And Congress last month earmarked $45 billion in additional funding for military, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine and other countries impacted by Russia’s more than 10-month war. 

Republican lawmakers have expressed concern about the oversight of assistance to Ukraine, raising concerns among Kyiv’s supporters that billions of dollars in aid is at risk of being cut with a Republican-controlled House. 

The Biden administration has tasked inspector generals of the State Department, Pentagon and U.S. Agency for International Development to oversee American assistance, and Ukraine has said it has developed a reporting and verification process – in conjunction with the World Bank – to monitor economic assistance to the country. 

But comprehensive monitoring of American weapons in Ukraine is viewed as a challenge.

Politico reported last month that a September cable sent by U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink raised concerns over major barriers to keeping track of American military assistance and its functioning – but said the embassy was working to put in place different approaches and mechanisms to track assistance. 

Still, King said he is returning to the U.S. “enormously impressed by the level of accounting and accountability for the use of these materials and funds,” according to the transcript of his press conference provided by his office. 

“So one of my jobs is to be sure that the resources that are being provided by the American people are being accounted for and are being expended for the purposes to which they’ve been dedicated,” he said. “I’m leaving convinced that that’s the case.”

King also said he is returning to Washington “with a list of things” requested by Ukrainian officials that the U.S. government and private sector can provide.

“And we listened to Ukrainian officials, energy, military, president’s administration, the president himself about what is needed, what is necessary,” King said. “And we’ve walked out with a list of things that we’re going to take back to our government and to the private sector where they may be able to help.”

Reed described Zelensky, who recently addressed a joint meeting of Congress, as “leading quite adroitly, a worldwide coalition” and said he was returning to Washington also advocating for more assistance for Ukraine. 

“So, that equipment could come from other countries, but I think there is the sense now, and the message that we are carrying back, is that we are at a decisive moment,” he said, “and that providing equipment that the Ukrainian forces need will go a long way to concluding this successfully and that’s our message.” 

While Reed wore a suit and shirt, King appeared to match Zelensky’s wartime uniform by wearing an army green sweatshirt with a decal of Civil War hero for the Union, Medal of Honor recipient and Maine native, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. 

Chamberlain was an academic turned revered military commander and a four-term governor of Maine famous for leading a bayonet charge to defend the Little Round Top Hill during the battle of Gettysburg when his troops ran out of ammunition.

Tags Angus King Angus King Biden Jack Reed Jack Reed russia ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky Volodymyr Zelensky

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