Hill: U.S. must 'draw a line,' continue Ukraine support

by Alex Thomas
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
February 13, 2024

WASHINGTON — As the U.S. Senate considered an international aid package, Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., joined congressional colleagues on a trip last week to Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy regarding America's ongoing support for Ukrainian military forces.

Hill, of Little Rock, was part of a bipartisan House of Representatives delegation that traveled to Kyiv. Zelenskyy emphasized during Friday's meeting the importance of the United States' continued assistance to Ukraine as the country prepares for a third year of war against Russia.

"We have to draw the line here and back the Europeans in demonstrating to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin that he's not going to take the rest of Georgia, he's not going to take the rest of Moldova, and he's not going to take the balance of Ukraine," Hill told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

"We do that only by -- as the largest military and the largest economy in the world -- contributing modestly to that agenda, which we are doing."

The meeting marked Hill's third trip to Ukraine and second discussion with Zelenskyy in Kyiv amid the war. The bipartisan coalition included Reps. Mike Turner, R-Ohio; Abigail Spanberger, D-Va.; Jason Crow, D-Colo.; and Zach Nunn, R-Iowa.

Hill, Spanberger and Crow are members of the House Intelligence Committee. Turner serves as the committee's chairman.

As the Little Rock congressman and other House members were in Kyiv, the Senate was continuing its work regarding a $95.3 billion package supporting international assistance efforts. Around $60.1 billion of the proposal involves Ukraine and related military training, intelligence sharing, and expenses for replenishing American and Ukrainian military supplies.

The proposal additionally covers military aid to Israel, support for the United States' Indo-Pacific partners, and humanitarian assistance for residents of Ukraine, Gaza and other conflict-impacted areas.

Hill regrets Congress did not approve support for Ukraine and other international security matters before federal lawmakers left the nation's capital in December for the holidays, stressing an urgent need now for effective action on Capitol Hill.

Celeste Wallander, the Defense Department's assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, informed reporters during a Jan. 23 briefing about Ukrainian military reports of units not having enough "stocks and the stores of ammunition," which she connected to the lack of congressional action.

"They are literally running out of ammunition and are rationing artillery at the front line of forces today," Hill told the Democrat-Gazette, adding Ukrainian forces "cannot be as offensive or aggressive against Russian shelling of their troops because they are running low on their ammunition."

"I believe the European support is there, I believe the Ukrainian strategy there, I believe that the auditing and inspector general resources and leadership are there to protect American taxpayer investments," the congressman stated. "We need to get on with it, or you'll see reversals on the battlefield."

During the call, Hill additionally placed responsibility on the Biden administration for the war's duration. From the congressman's perspective, the United States has been slow in providing the necessary military equipment and weapons systems to Ukraine, in turn contributing to the conflict's ongoing status.

"I don't think we have done what we should have done earlier," he said.

"With that said, I think now we know what should be delivered to the Ukrainians for this final phase of sending that message to Putin," Hill said. "He cannot advance in Ukraine, he cannot advance in Crimea, his supply lines are not secure, and he no longer has naval dominance in the Black Sea."

Following Friday's meeting, Zelenskyy thanked the House delegation for their willingness to discuss the United States' support for Ukraine.

"This visit demonstrates the powerful bipartisan support for Ukraine, confirming that the United States is a strategic partner helping us effectively resist the aggressor," Zelenskyy said. "Your arrival is important for boosting the morale of our people, especially for those heroes fighting on the front lines today."

The full House resumed legislative business today, hours after the Senate approved the $95.3 billion package in a 70-29 vote.

Senate Republican colleagues delivered a divided vote. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., of Rogers voted for the bill, while Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., of Little Rock opposed the measure. Most Senate Democrats supported the legislation.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has not shied away from criticizing the Senate bill, noting in a statement Monday evening the lack of language addressing security at the U.S.-Mexico border. Senate leaders had attached an immigration and border security framework to the supplemental, but they removed this language following rejection from Johnson, House GOP leaders and some senators.

While the House does not have a set path for voting on the Senate's legislation, Hill wants colleagues to give thought to current legislation on confiscating Russian sovereign assets for a Ukraine support fund if the chamber accepts amendments.

Hill and Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., are co-sponsors of the bipartisan Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity for Ukrainians Act. The House Foreign Affairs Committee has favorably reported the bill to the full chamber for consideration.

"This legislation uses Russian money held in Western countries -- Russian assets held outside of Russia -- to support Ukraine's war effort and support Ukraine's reconstruction," Hill said. "This should be a key priority for the U.S. to be a leader there."

Keep In Touch

Please sign up below to receive my weekly newsletter and get the latest news and updates directly to your inbox.