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Harris says 'there is only Plan A' for Ukraine aid. Zelenskyy says he's counting on it

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Vice President Harris arrive at a press conference at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 17.
Wolfgang Rattay
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POOL/AFP via Getty Images
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Vice President Harris arrive at a press conference at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 17.

Updated February 17, 2024 at 3:18 PM ET

MUNICH — Vice President Harris said on Saturday that there was no backup plan for giving Ukraine weapons and funding if a package of aid fails to advance in the U.S. House of Representatives.

"There's only Plan A, which is to ensure that Ukraine receives what it needs," Harris said after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the annual Munich Security Conference, where the stalled Ukraine aid has fueled European concerns about whether they can rely on the United States as a partner.

Harris was at the conference to try to reassure allies. "We are unwavering and that has nothing to do with an election cycle — it has to do with who we are and what kind of country we want to be — one that stands with our friends," she said.

Separately, President Biden called Zelenskyy on Saturday "to underscore the United States' commitment to continue supporting Ukraine" ahead of the two-year anniversary of the Russian invasion, the White House said.

"This morning, Ukraine's military was forced to withdraw from Avdiivka after Ukrainian soldiers had to ration ammunition due to dwindling supplies as a result of congressional inaction, resulting in Russia's first notable gains in months," the statement continued. Biden "emphasized the need for Congress to urgently pass" funding for Ukraine.

It's unclear if or when the aid will advance in the House

Congress approved more than $112 billion for aid to Ukraine in 2022. In October, Biden asked for about $60 billion more as part of a broad national security package. The Senate approved the request earlier this month.

But in Washington, it is unclear if or when the aid will advance in the House of Representatives. Former President Donald Trump, who is the frontrunner to become the Republican nominee for this year's presidential election, opposes the package, and House Speaker Mike Johnson has been noncommittal about bringing it forward for a vote.

Zelenskyy acknowledged the "electoral, internal, political" challenges inside the United States, but said there was "no alternative" for Ukraine to having Washington as its partner.

He said so much depends on "this single voting procedure" in Congress, and described how U.S.-supplied Patriot missiles were allowing his country's economy to keep functioning.

"We are counting on this positive decision of the Congress," he said. "For us, this package is vital."

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
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