Washington — Last December, Washington received Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a hero, major American newspapers and networks raced to interview him, members of Congress crowded to film next to him, President Biden received him warmly at the White House, and congressional leaders gave him the opportunity to deliver a historic speech to a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
After leaving Washington, Time magazine named him Person of the Year, in recognition of his military, political and popular leadership during the war against Russia, and described Zelensky as representing the "soul of Ukraine" at a time when his country is witnessing a massive military invasion from Russia.
Such an honor is an important step that reflects the American public's appreciation of President Zelensky, and the evolution of perception of him from a different politician due to his background as a television comedian to the status of a leader of global standing.
Less than a year later, the nature of Washington's relationship with the Ukrainian president has changed, and enthusiasm for celebrating the president, whose country's issue has become one of the points of contention amid the highly polarized state of American politics.
Desperate attempts by Zelensky
Zelensky's visit to Washington came after he addressed the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, in addition to participating in a special session of the UN Security Council to discuss the Ukrainian crisis.
The visit comes at a crucial moment for Ukraine, as it seeks to rally support and secure additional funding for its counteroffensive against Russia.
Before meeting President Joe Biden at the White House, Zelensky visited the memorial to the victims of the September 11 attacks at the Pentagon, where he held various meetings with US Defense Secretary General Lloyd Austin and his top aides.
Zelensky's strategy for talking to members of Congress has changed, after adopting a sharp tone last December, the Ukrainian president was forced to change his tone in the hope of obtaining more financial and military support, and Zelensky told a congressional session during his visit to Washington in December 2022, that your aid "is not charity, but an investment in global security."
As the situation and the general mood in Washington changed, Zelensky said on Monday, "We appreciate your help, the situation is difficult, we stopped the Russians in the east, and we started a counteroffensive. Yes, it's not that fast, but we move forward every day, getting rid of the occupation of our land."
Washington and its politicians have become more reluctant to support Ukraine, and the stance on support for Ukraine has become a bipartisan conflict, Republican and Democratic.
As frustration spread on both sides of the Atlantic that the long-awaited summer counteroffensive in Ukraine had seemingly yielded less results than expected, top Republicans such as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy became increasingly skeptical of Kiev's capabilities.
Earlier on Thursday, Zelenskiy met lawmakers in Congress, where he said he had a "strong dialogue" with senators.
Before Zelensky arrived at the Capitol, Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, rejected the Ukrainian president's request to deliver a joint address to Congress, and McCarthy justified his position by saying "we didn't have time, he already gave a speech in a joint session" in reference to last December.
Rising Republican Opposition
While President Joe Biden has pledged an additional $24 billion to Ukraine, bringing U.S. support packages to about $113 billion, Republican opposition to additional aid to Kiev is mounting.
The new aid package includes ensuring supplies of vital weapons and ammunition, ahead of most analysts expecting a grueling confrontation during the winter months.
U.S. politicians are divided over the money allocated to Ukraine, with many Republicans saying it is better to spend money on domestic issues, and most Democrats oppose that argument, based on U.S. national security interests.
Republicans make three arguments against the Democrats' logic: first, there is not enough oversight of aid, that spending money there takes money out of Americans' pockets, and that "focusing on European security distracts us from the Chinese threat."
Biden reiterated that the White House hopes to sign the aid package "no matter how long it takes."
The refusal to provide support to Ukraine is no longer a trend that reflects a few on the margins of the two parties, as the refusal has become a pressure card for the speaker of the lower house of parliament to play in budget discussions, as he wants aid to Ukraine to become self-contained legislation rather than tied to broader government spending plans, making it easier to defeat.
Hardline Republicans in Congress oppose any additional aid to Ukraine, and as the election season begins, Republicans are repeating no "blank checks" to Kiev that takes money out of the pockets of hard-working Americans.
Biden (right) hopes to sign aid package for Ukraine (Reuters)
Ukraine's subsidies decline
Meanwhile, a recent CNN poll of 1279,<> people revealed that most Americans oppose allowing Congress to approve additional funding to support Ukraine in its war with Russia.
Most Americans believe their country has already done enough to help Ukraine, and 55 percent of respondents said Congress should not authorize additional funding to support Ukraine versus 45 percent supporting it.
Fifty-one percent of respondents agreed that the United States has done enough to help Ukraine, while 51 percent say it should do more.
These percentages reflect a significant decline in American support for Ukraine, as this percentage during the first days of Russia's war on Ukraine in late February 2022 was approximately 62%.