Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was welcomed by U.S. lawmakers as he arrived to address a joint session of Congress at the Capitol in Washington on Sept. 18.Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko requested more military and economic aid for his country at a joint session of U.S. Congress on Thursday. In his speech, he tried to rally lawmakers around upholding Ukrainian sovereignty against attacks by separatists and Russian soldiers.
“Don’t let Ukraine stand alone in the face of this aggression," Poroshenko said. "I urge America to lead the way."
Poroshenko's request for greater military and economic assistance from the United States and other Western nations comes at a crucial moment in Ukraine's conflict with Russia and Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. Kiev had been waging a battle to take back control of its east for nearly half a year when an influx of Russian support for separatists caused Ukrainian officials to sign a deal on Tuesday that gave rebels significant autonomy in parts of the country's east.
However, Russian soldiers and separatists are still operating in Ukraine, Reuters reported. And Poroshenko's Thursday speech suggested that he is not willing to let part of his country drift away from the central government in Kiev.
Poroshenko requested that NATO give Ukraine "special security status," which would provide the highest degree of protection for a country that is not a part of the alliance. "One cannot win the war with blankets," he said.
The U.S. and European nations have hesitated to send military aid to Ukraine partly due to fears over escalating the potential for a wider military confrontation with Russia, the Washington Post reported. Ukrainian officials have become wary that they may be forced to combat separatists and Russian forces by themselves, and have ramped up calls for assistance.
The U.S. showed off its armed forces with two military exercises inside Ukraine this month, and has so far provided the country with $60 million in non-lethal aid, according to the Post. The U.S. and the European Union have also slapped sanctions on Russia that have targeted that country's military, financial and energy industries, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Still, Poroshenko is seeking more immediate action. During his speech, he suggested that Ukrainians already have the will to fight — they just need better tools to use in battle.
“In Ukraine, you don’t have to build a democracy," Poroshenko said. "It already exists. You just defend it.”