US President Joe Biden will receive his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House this Thursday, at a time when Washington is considering sending long-range ATACMS missiles to Kiev, which Ukraine has been urging for months.
John Kirby, one of the White House spokesmen, said at a press conference this Wednesday that the administration had not yet made a final decision but was reviewing the proposal.
“We are discussing this matter in government and of course we are also in discussions about it with our Ukrainian partners,” Kirby said.
Biden already mentioned during the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania in July that they were considering sending ATACMS missiles to Ukraine, but at that time his focus was on sending artillery, since that is what is most often used on the battlefield.
Since then, Ukraine has stepped up its insistence, arguing that ATACMS missiles with a range of 90 miles (about 300 kilometers) would be particularly effective in neutralizing Russian missile launchers in Crimea, from where Odessa is frequently attacked.
The White House has shown some reluctance to send this type of weapons to Ukraine because of its reach, as the ATACMS could hit Russian cities and trigger a response from Moscow against Washington.
However, at the NATO summit in Vilnius, France announced the delivery of long-range SCALP missiles to Ukraine, while the United Kingdom decided in May to send Storm Shadow missiles with a range of about 155 miles (250 kilometers) to the Ukrainian armed forces.
The meeting between Biden and Zelensky at the White House, scheduled for 3:00 p.m. local time (7:00 p.m. GMT), comes as the US Congress debates whether to approve an additional $24 billion in humanitarian and military aid Ukraine.
Some Republicans in the House of Representatives were reluctant to continue sending aid to Ukraine, arguing that the counteroffensive was producing less satisfactory results than expected.
To address these concerns, Zelensky will use his visit to Washington to meet with both Democratic and Republican members of Congress, Kirby said.
In addition, Zelensky will visit the Pentagon on Thursday, which will be his first visit to this US military headquarters.
At the Pentagon, Zelensky will meet with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and other senior military leaders, Kirby said.
Zelensky’s visit to Washington follows his participation in the United Nations General Assembly’s high-level week in New York, where leaders from around the world gather to address important issues and deliver speeches to their counterparts.