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With Ukraine Funding in Limbo, U.S. Defense Contractors Huddle with Zelenskyy

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets Monday with executives from the U.S. defense industry during his visit this week to Washington, D.C. Office of the President of Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy meets Monday with executives from the U.S. defense industry during his visit this week to Washington, D.C. Office of the President of Ukraine

By: Rob Bluey, The Daily Signal

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy courted a group of U.S. defense contractors this week during his visit to Washington, D.C., as he lobbied lawmakers to approve an additional $61.4 billion in funding for his country’s war effort against Russia.

Even before speaking with President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Mike Johnson, U.S. senators, and other elected officials, Zelenskyy huddled with 10 executives from the defense industry—companies that manufacture weapons of war and benefit financially from the $113 billion that Congress already has approved for the ongoing conflict in Europe.

Zelenskyy disclosed the meeting in posts on X—first a photo with about a dozen well-dressed executives and then a 77-second video with highlights from their meeting at Ukraine House in Washington.

“I want to thank you, all of you and your partners, and, of course, please pass from me messages to your workers, people who really work. They did a lot for Ukraine,” Zelenskyy told the group of defense industry representatives. “Without such people, companies, and such workers, we really couldn’t manage and save our land. We are thankful that we have such friends.”

During his White House meeting Tuesday with Biden, Zelenskyy thanked the “really powerful companies” that he entertained Monday.

According to the Ukrainian president’s office, attendees included:

  • AeroVironment Vice President Charles Dean
  • BAE Systems President Tom Arseneault
  • Boeing President Theodore Colbert
  • Day & Zimmermann Chair and CEO Harold Yoh
  • D&M Holding CEO Daniel Powers
  • General Dynamics Vice President Mark Roualet
  • Lockheed Martin Vice President Raymond Piselli
  • Northrop Grumman Vice President Stephen O’Bryan
  • RTX Vice President Jeff Shockey
  • Sierra Nevada Corp. CEO Fatih Ozmen

Zelenskyy’s office also revealed that he would “invite American partners to take a stake in Ukrainian defense companies, which would be in the interests of all parties involved.”

At the meeting, Zelenskyy pitched the executives on a Ukraine-based defense hub for Europe, noting his country’s wartime experience since Russia’s invasion in February 2022.

Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. called attention to the meeting on X, saying Zelenskyy “is literally meeting with defense contractors.”

The meeting followed last week’s Defense Industrial Base Conference, which brought together more than 300 defense industry and government representatives from the United States and Ukraine. According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Commerce, the conference “is part of the U.S. government’s efforts to significantly increase weapons production to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom and security.”

Attendees discussed “opportunities for co-production and other industrial cooperation,” with a goal of building a defense industrial base for Ukraine.

“You have a strong defense industrial base, but we need to lean in to work with you in partnership with the private sector, the public sector, to strengthen it, and to deepen it to make it more innovative,” Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said. “We’re with you every step of the way, we stand with you today and tomorrow, until the end, until victory.”

Four high-ranking Ukrainian officials attended the conference along with Raimondo, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Penny Pritzker, U.S. special representative for Ukraine’s economic recovery.

Despite a high-profile visit to Washington, Zelenskyy was unable to convince skeptical lawmakers to move forward on the $61.4 billion in new funding for Ukraine proposed by the Biden administration. Congress already has approved $113 billion, at a cost of $900 per American household.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., a vocal supporter of Ukraine funding, admitted Tuesday that it was “practically impossible” to act before Christmas, The Hill reported.

Conservatives in Congress are demanding strong border security measures to be paired with any additional Ukraine funding. They want to attach the Secure the Border Act (HR 2) to the funding request to address the worsening U.S. border crisis.

Americans’ support for additional Ukraine funding appears to be waning. A recent Morning Consult poll found that only 41% favor sending more U.S. money to Ukraine.

Despite dwindling public support, Biden assured Zelenskyy: “We’re going to stay at your side. … Congress needs to pass a supplemental funding to Ukraine before they break [for] the holiday recess. Before they give [Russian President Vladimir] Putin the greatest Christmas gift they could possibly give him.”

Zelenskyy revealed at the White House that the infusion of U.S. funding for Ukraine was “really boosting our economy and global food security.”

“Yesterday, I met with the IMF [International Monetary Fund] and the World Bank, and they’re impressed with Ukraine’s economic growth, almost 5%. And that’s significant,” Zelenskyy said.

Biden concluded the public conversation by announcing that he had signed a $200 million package of miltary aid for Ukraine. The Defense Department later announced that it includes:

  • AIM-9M missiles for air defense.
  • Air defense system components.
  • Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS).
  • 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds.
  • High-speed Anti-radiation missiles (HARMs).
  • Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles.
  • Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems.
  • More than 4 million rounds of small arms ammunition.
  • Demolitions munitions for obstacle clearing.
  • Equipment to protect critical national infrastructure.
  • Spare parts, generators, maintenance, and other ancillary equipment.

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