US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has rejected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s invitation to visit Ukraine to see how US support is spent in the war effort against Russia as the California Republican contends with major parts of his party who wants to cut or completely end American aid to the country.
Mr Zelensky appeared on CNN, saying that “he has to come here to see how we work, what’s happening here, what war caused us, which people are fighting now, who are fighting now. And then after that, make your assumptions”.
Mr McCarthy has hesitated to say if he would support further aid, telling CNN that he wouldn’t travel to Ukraine following Mr Zelensky’s invitation and the Speaker criticised the Biden administration for not moving fast enough to support the country.
But he still retained his position that the US shouldn’t be sending a “blank check” to the Ukrainians. He initially stated that position in the autumn, before becoming Speaker, prompting bipartisan pushback.
Mr McCarthy has made the “blank check” comments despite there being federal oversight of how the money is spent.
“Let’s be very clear about what I said – no blank checks, okay? So, from that perspective, I don’t have to go to Ukraine to understand where there’s a blank check or not,” he told CNN. “I will continue to get my briefings and others, but I don’t have to go to Ukraine or Kyiv to see it. And my point has always been, I won’t provide a blank check for anything.”
Mr McCarthy made the comments after Mr Zelensky spoke about the Democrats and Republicans who have visited Ukraine and seen “the supply routes, every shell, every bullet, every dollar”.
“I think that Speaker McCarthy, he never visited Kyiv or Ukraine, and I think it would help him with his position,” Mr Zelensky said.
While there is bipartisan support for supporting Ukraine, a faction of the GOP wants all military and financial support for the country to cease.
Mr Zelensky said that anyone who visits his country will be able to see the reality of the need for aid. President Joe Biden visited Kyiv last month in a trip aimed at bolstering support for Ukraine.
The Ukrainian president has shared his gratitude for US support, visiting Washington DC last year, when he saw Mr Biden at the White House and spoke in front of Congress.
In the House chamber, Mr Zelensky said US support “is crucial not just to stand in such [a] fight but to get to the turning point to win on the battlefield”.
Mr Zelensky lauded the bipartisan support for Ukraine when asked by CNN if he was concerned about the GOP faction arguing against further aid.
“Firstly, I would like to thank the bipartisan support of Ukraine, it’s very important,” he said.
“Recently, I had a meeting with representatives of the Republican Party and I’m thankful to the congressmen who visited Ukraine. They told me that they want to support Ukraine very much, like the Democrats,” he added.
“We don’t care about the side of the support as long as it’s powerful and constant,” the wartime leader said.