Speaker Nancy Pelosi visits Kyiv amid signs of growing U.S. commitment to Ukraine

Mayank Chhaya-

Mayank Chayya

How long before President Joe Biden shows up in Kyiv to meet Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky? That is a rhetorical question so far that acquires some real prospects considering that Washington appears to have stepped up the political and diplomatic weight of its visitors to the warn-torn nation.

First, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin visited Kyiv on April 24. In a hush-hush visit, the two met the embattled President.

A statement by the State Department spokesperson Ned Price on April 25, 2022 said, “Secretary Blinken informed (Ukraine’s) President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy that the United States intends to obligate more than $713 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Ukraine and 15 other Allied and partner nations in Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkan region. This includes $650 million in funding provided by the Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022. More than $322 million in this obligation is for Ukraine and will provide support for the capabilities Ukraine needs as Russia’s forces train their focus on the Donbas; this assistance will also help Ukraine’s armed forces transition to more advanced weapons and air defense systems. This assistance will also help NATO Allies with backfilling capabilities they have donated to Ukraine from their own stockpiles. Additionally, Secretary Blinken told President Zelenskyy that on April 24 the Department notified Congress of a Foreign Military Sale of up to $165 million for non-standard ammunition for Ukraine. Since the start of Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine on February 24, the United States has committed roughly $3.7 billion in security assistance and has provided more than $4.3 billion since the start of the Biden Administration.”

So far Washington has given 3.7 billion dollars in military and related aid.

Then came the visit of Speaker of Nancy Pelosi on April 30 signaling what appears to be a calibrated deepening of Washington’s engagement with Ukraine. On her return today, Pelosi said she had pledged “to help the Ukrainian people as they defend democracy for their nation and for the world.” She also said the U.S. commitment to back Ukraine was “until victory is won.”

It is not clear how Washington would define “victory”. Is it the way Ukrainians see it, or in other words until every Russian troop is driven out and all territories reclaimed? Or is to something more qualified? There is next to no prospect of finding an explicit reply from the Biden administration to this question.

As of now, it is doubtful if President Biden or even Vice President Kamala Harris would follow Pelosi. Biden’s presence in Kyiv could likely be construed by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin as provocative even though it would not be any significantly different from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit there.

Accompanying Pelosi were Representative Gregory W. Meeks of New York, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee and Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. Meeks said that the United States would work with allies to refine and expand sanctions to put more pressure on Moscow.

“Nothing is going to decrease,” he said, “everything is going to increase.”

Schiff said that he was “in awe of what the Ukrainians have been able to achieve” in taking on the Russian forces and deprive them of the control of Kyiv.

It is clear that in recent days the Biden administration has become more aggressive in its military assistance disregarding fears expressed in some quarters that could signal a direct conflict with Putin.

In his comments earlier, Secretary Austin had specifically said the U.S. wants Russia “weakened” to an extent where its military would not be in a position to threaten other neighboring countries.