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Jake Sullivan makes secret trip to Ukraine amid U.S. aid impasse

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National security adviser Jake Sullivan traveled in secret to Ukraine on Wednesday in a trip aimed at reaffirming U.S. support for the beleaguered ally despite an impasse in Congress over additional funding for the war effort.

Sullivan arrived in Ukraine as the country’s forces are on their back foot, having retreated from the eastern city of Avdiivka and facing Russian advances across the front lines.

Kyiv is facing chronic shortages of ammunition and soldiers as, in the United States, House lawmakers weigh a Senate aid package that includes $60 billion for Ukraine. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has thus far refused calls to vote on the measure, sending the White House scrambling to find weaponry and equipment it can send to Ukraine.

“You should believe in the United States,” Sullivan told reporters in a briefing at Ukraine’s presidential office in Kyiv. “We are confident we will get this done. We will get this aid to Ukraine.”

During his trip, Sullivan will seek to boost enthusiasm for a war effort that President Biden had hoped to campaign on as a symbol of his administration’s leadership against autocratic aggression. Ukrainian officials have warned that morale is slipping as the war grinds into its third year.

“He’s there to underscore our commitment to Ukraine and to reaffirm that we’re committed to sticking with them for the long haul,” said a U.S. official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss Sullivan’s wartime travel.

A faction of Republicans in Congress have held up additional funding for Ukraine, faulting the administration for failing to spell out a vision for victory and saying the tens of billions of dollars spent already have only achieved a stalemate.

“We will get a strong bipartisan vote in the House for an assistance package for Ukraine, and we will get that money out the door as we should, so I don’t think we need to speak today about Plan B,” Sullivan said in Kyiv. “The timing has already taken too long … We are working to get it done as soon as possible.”

Sullivan intends to underscore that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has “been a complete blunder” for President Vladimir Putin, said the official familiar with his plans while in Kyiv. “Ukraine is far surpassing what many predicted and we need to stick with them,” the official added.

Sullivan pushed that point Wednesday, saying “Russia has already failed in this war.”

The visit will also allow Sullivan to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and discuss the path forward for Ukraine, said the official.

Sullivan spoke to reporters Wednesday alongside Andriy Yermak, the top aide to Zelensky who serves as head of the presidential office.

Sullivan’s effort to boost morale follows a meeting in Germany on Tuesday of Ukraine’s military backers. There, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned that Ukraine’s survival was in “danger” and said continued U.S. assistance was a matter of “honor” for Washington.

“Ukraine won’t back down, and neither will the United States,” said Austin, seated beside Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov. “So our message today is clear: The United States will not let Ukraine fail. This coalition will not let Ukraine fail. And the free world will not let Ukraine fail.”

In lieu of new congressional funding, the Pentagon last week unveiled a $300 million aid package that includes Stinger antiaircraft missiles, 155 millimeter artillery rounds, 105 millimeter artillery rounds, anti-armor systems, and other munitions and equipment. It was the first such announcement in several weeks, made possible by unforeseen savings from Defense Department contracts to replenish arms donated to Kyiv previously.

Sullivan said Wednesday that Washington is “rushing those supplies” to Ukraine. He declined to comment on whether a delivery of long-range ATACMS missiles, provided by the United States, were already in the country. Ukraine has long pressed for more long-range weapons that would allow its forces to strike military targets far from the front line.

O’Grady reported from Kyiv.

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