Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was met with major obstacles this week from two of his closest allies as he continues his efforts to drum up support for his war against Russia.
On Thursday, Zelensky met with members of Congress on Capitol Hill to make his case for the U.S. to continue providing aid to Ukraine. But before his visit with lawmakers, a group of conservative Congress members sent a letter to the White House that stated their objections to providing Kyiv with more money.
The U.S. has been Ukraine’s biggest backer in terms of funding and military supplies since the war was launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2022. However, Zelensky is also seeing his country’s relationship with another staunch ally begin to fracture after Poland announced it would no longer send weapons to Kyiv.
Twenty-nine Republican representatives and senators led by Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio and Representative Chip Roy of Texas addressed the letter about their opposition to continued U.S. support for Ukraine to Shalanda Young, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget.
The letter requested information from Ukraine about the current state of Kyiv’s forces, as well as called for an exit strategy.
“Your request cites President Biden’s pledge that ‘we will stand with Ukraine as it defends its sovereignty for as long as it takes’…These statements imply an open-ended commitment to supporting the war in Ukraine of an indeterminate nature, based on a strategy that is unclear, to achieve a goal yet to be articulated to the public or the Congress,” the letter said.
“The American people deserve to know what their money has gone to,” the letter continued. “How is the counteroffensive going? Are the Ukrainians any closer to victory than they were 6 months ago? What is our strategy, and what is the president’s exit plan? What does the administration define as victory in Ukraine?”
Zelensky is scheduled to meet with Biden later on Thursday. He spoke earlier in the day with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, who offered little in the way of details of their meeting other than saying he heard “a lot of positive things” from the Ukrainian leader.
As Zelensky continues his American tour, he was already dealt a major blow when Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said during a Wednesday television appearance that Warsaw will no longer work in getting arms to Ukraine.
“We are no longer transferring weapons to Ukraine, because we are now arming Poland with more modern weapons,” Morawiecki said. “If you don’t want to be on the defensive, you have to have something to defend yourself with.”
Morawiecki’s announcement comes amid an increasingly bitter dispute between Ukraine and Poland in recent days, with Warsaw claiming its markets have been destabilized by the westward export of Ukrainian grain. Poland has said the results have forced down domestic grain prices.
Before Morawiecki made his comments, Polish President Andrzej Duda underscored the deteriorating relationship between the countries when he compared Ukraine to “a drowning person clinging to anything available.”
“A drowning person is extremely dangerous, capable of pulling you down to the depths,” Duda told reporters on Tuesday.
David Silbey, an associate professor of history at Cornell and director of teaching and learning at Cornell in Washington, chalked up Morawiecki’s announcement to “politics.”
“There’s a Polish election going on, and the government is trying to fend off the opposition’s attempt to make Ukraine an issue,” Silbey told Newsweek. “They’re not stopping any of the previously committed weapons from going or shutting down the logistics hub in Eastern Poland through which enormous amounts of supplies flow, so it has very little real impact.”
Silbey added that there’s also some truth to what the Polish prime minister said.
“Practically speaking, the Poles had already given as much weaponry to the Ukrainians as they could without crippling their own military—and maybe a bit more,” he said.
George Mason University Schar School of Policy and Government professor Mark N. Katz told Newsweek that losing Poland’s support could impact Kyiv.
“The Polish prime minister’s announcement that Warsaw will stop shipping arms to Ukraine is a setback for Ukraine,” Katz said. “Poland has up to now been one of Ukraine’s strongest supporters.”
Katz also warned of possible other consequences that could come from Warsaw’s move, including in terms of American support.
“The Polish prime minister’s justification for this move—that Poland needs to arm itself—could be seized upon by other countries to also reduce or even end their arms shipments to Ukraine,” Katz said. “I suspect that those who cite the need to arm their own country as a justification for cutting back arms shipments to Ukraine are hoping that the U.S. will step up arms sales to them.
“But there are political forces in the U.S. who cite the need to rearm the U.S. as a reason to cut back support for Ukraine too.”