WASHINGTON, DC – DECEMBER 12: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (L) and U.S. President Joe Biden hold a news conference in the Indian Treaty Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on December 12, 2023 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON— While the curtain opened on the NATO Summit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy aimed his sights on winning over Republicans, giving a speech at a GOP stronghold amid uncertainty over whether likely GOP candidate former President Donald Trump would continue military aid to Ukraine if elected in November.

“Now, everyone is waiting for November: Americans are waiting for November. Europe, the Middle East, the Pacific — the whole world is waiting for November,” Zelenskyy said in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute this evening.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is also “waiting for November,” Zelenskyy added during a fireside chat following the speech. “Maybe the policy of America will change. I hope it will never change.”

Throughout his remarks, Zelenskyy refrained from criticism of Trump, who has questioned whether the United States should remain in NATO and has signaled he may revoke support for Ukraine if it refuses to meet Russia for peace talks. Instead, he appealed to America’s economic might and military power, repeatedly stating that US leaders must not let the country be bullied by a weaker nation.

No matter whether President Joe Biden or Trump win the election, America’s president must understand that Putin will oppose the United States on principle due to its democratic values, and cannot trust in the Russian leader as a partner, Zelenskyy said.

“Biden and Trump are very different but they are supportive [of] democracy, and that’s why I think Putin will hate both of them,” he said. “But I think both of them need to understand it — not to count on his attitude.”

Zelenskyy warned that if the United States exits NATO, bad actors could be emboldened to invade other nations such as Poland, and “the world will lose a lot of countries because of people like Putin.”

When asked whether he was concerned about a potential Trump administration, Zelenskyy said he hoped that Trump would continue current US policy toward Ukraine. He stated that he had good meetings with Trump when he was president, “but we didn’t [go] through the war with him.”

Zelenskyy spoke just hours after the United States, Germany, Romania, Netherlands and Italy announced plans to provide five strategic air defense systems — including four Patriot batteries — to Ukraine and signaled that another round of donations could be on its way soon.

“We are working on a further announcement this year of additional strategic air defense systems for Ukraine,” the countries announced in a joint statement today upon the opening of the NATO Summit in Washington this week.

The United States, Germany and Romania will each donate a Patriot battery; the Netherlands and several unnamed countries will provide components that will facilitate the operation of a fourth Patriot battery, and Italy will give another SAMP-T system.

In addition to the longer-range systems, the US and a collection of allies — including Canada, Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom — promised “dozens” of tactical air defense systems, including NASAMS, HAWKs, IRIS T-SLM, IRIS T-SLS, and Gepard systems.

And the United States will deliver “hundreds” of interceptors for those systems over the next year.

“The United States will make sure that when we export critical air defense interceptors, Ukraine goes to the front of the line,” Biden said in a speech opening the summit. “They will get this assistance before anyone else gets it.”

Throughout the speech and fireside chat, Zelenskyy repeatedly thanked the United States and NATO for its donation of additional air defense systems, but added that “it will not be enough” as Russia is actively working to figure out how to defeat the Patriot systems.

While GOP support for Ukraine in Congress has faltered in recent months, some key lawmakers like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., have continued to back military aid for Ukraine. In remarks ahead of the Ukrainian president’s speech, McConnell likened the war in Ukraine to the conflict in Israel, which is more widely backed by Republicans on Capitol Hill, with McConnell calling both “existential wars of survival.”

Ukrainians “don’t need handwringing, hesitation or second guessing,” McConnell said. “They need the tools to defend themselves, to impose costs on their aggressors and to negotiate from positions of strength.”