With the Biden administration asking for $37 billion in support for Ukraine during a lame duck session, a small delegation from the House of Representatives visited Ukraine this past week, meeting with anti-corruption activists and talking with Ukrainian military leaders about tracking U.S. weapons and their use. The Ukrainian military demonstrated “transparency and accountability of all the equipment we have been providing,” said Santa Barbara’s Rep. Salud Carbajal, who was among the five members of the House Armed Services Committee who left for Kyiv last Thursday.
Very much on the QT, the group flew from D.C. to Poland and then traveled by train, with all lights extinguished, to the capital of Ukraine. There, they saw windows boarded up with plywood and sandbags in areas, and they could see air defense placements as they got into the city, said Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, who led the group.
In a brief press conference on Monday, the five congressmembers stated how impressed they were by the Ukrainian peoples’ resolve and resilience as winter approached and Russian missile strikes have plunged the city into darkness.
“We saw the incredible tenacity of the Ukrainians to beat their invaders back,” Carbajal said. “It is critical for Congress to hear this, and we need to continue to support Ukraine. It’s clearly making a difference, and we need to keep the momentum.”
Carbajal also said the Department of Defense had indicated the Ukraine funds would run out by spring. “Delay would be disastrous,” he added.
An omnibus bill to keep the government in operation will come up by December 15, and Gallego said there was concern that the incoming Congress would be hostile to packages of this sort. Now was the time to secure funding for Ukraine, which he described as being in a dire situation to survive the winter.
Joe Wilson, a representative from South Carolina and the sole Republican on the trip, said the vote would be bipartisan: “The vast majority in the Republican conference support the people of Ukraine.”
In the 10 hours the group spent in Ukraine, they were able to observe some aspects of life in Kyiv. “Even as cold as it is, people were walking around, at cafés, going to bars. Even though it was dark, they were still going to live their lives,” said Gallego. “The best we can do is give them the support they need to survive the winter, keep fighting back, and keep their freedom.”