By Aamer Madhani, Lynn Berry and Eric Tucker | Associated Press
Washington — President Joe Biden’s first meeting with a foreign leader after the end of the war in Afghanistan on Wednesday conveyed the message that the United States — freed from the “eternal war” — is determined to be more reliable for its friends ally. In this case Ukraine.
Biden hosted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at a long-awaited meeting in the Oval Office and tried to assure him that his government was still completely behind the Eastern European country.
Biden did not mention Afghanistan in his brief appearance with Zelensky in front of the camera.
But he emphasized his concerns about Russian aggression in the region. Biden has repeatedly stated in his reasons for ending the war in Afghanistan that ending the war in Afghanistan will enable the United States to focus more on the malicious actions of its rivals Russia and China.
Biden said: “Faced with Russia’s aggression and Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations, the United States remains firmly committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The Ukrainian leader who found himself in trouble during Donald Trump’s first impeachment arrived at the White House, hoping that Biden would increase military assistance and support his country’s application to join NATO.
The meeting was postponed for two days, and Biden and his national security team were consumed by the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The troop withdrawal that ended on Monday left many Afghans who had worked with the Americans and their allies and now fear Taliban rule. This has led to criticism that the United States is not a reliable international partner, which Biden is eager to refute.
The President of Ukraine has not ignored the current situation, he is seeking to strengthen his country’s relations with the United States
“During the difficult times in the world and the United States…you still make time for us, and we do appreciate that,” Zelensky said.
Before sitting down, the Biden administration stated that it would provide Ukraine with up to 60 million U.S. dollars in new military assistance. In its notice to Congress, the government stated that the aid package for Ukraine is necessary because of the “significant increase in Russia’s military activities on its borders”, as well as mortar attacks, ceasefire violations and other provocative acts.
Zelensky thanked Biden for his assistance.
“The Donbass War has entered its eighth year and we have lost 15,000 people,” Zelensky said of the conflict with Russia-backed separatists in the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine.
In their private meeting, Zelensky and Biden discussed Washington’s decision not to block the construction of the North Stream 2 pipeline, which will bypass Ukraine and deliver Russian natural gas directly to Germany. This pipeline was strongly opposed by Ukraine and Poland, as well as Congressional Republicans and Democrats. Zelensky described it as a powerful geopolitical weapon for Russia.
The White House also announced that Ukraine has agreed to join a secure communication line through the National and Nuclear Risk Reduction Center, which helps minimize the risk of armed conflict. The center includes 50 international partners.
Zelensky is a TV actor who is new to politics. He took office in May 2019 and is eager to consolidate his country’s relationship with the United States. Instead, he almost immediately found himself under pressure from Trump’s envoy and Trump himself, who asked Zelensky to “do us a favor” on the phone call that led to his first impeachment.
In the now-famous July 2019 call, Trump asked Zelensky to investigate Biden and his son Hunter, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Trump’s EU envoy, Gordon Sunderland, later told the impeachment investigators that Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani explicitly sought “exchange terms,” in which the visit to the Oval Office would depend on Zelensky’s announcement The political investigation Trump wants.
“Is there any’exchange terms?'” Sunderland asked. “As for the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
In addition to the coveted White House invitation, Sunderland also said that his understanding is that Trump has been shelving nearly $400 million in military aid before Ukraine announced the investigation.
Trump’s allegations that he rejected military aid approved by Congress while seeking Ukraine’s help in his re-election campaign formed the basis of his first impeachment case. Trump was acquitted by the Senate. The meeting between the Oval Office and Zelensky never happened.
Under Biden’s leadership, Zelensky now has a president with a long history in Ukraine. He supports Ukraine’s determination to get rid of Russia, supports its young democracy, and welcomes more fully into Western clubs.
As Vice President, Biden is a key figure in the Obama administration on the Ukrainian issue and has promoted tougher anti-corruption actions. He once boasted that he succeeded in getting Ukraine to fire senior prosecutors who prevented some corruption investigations. Trump later erroneously insisted that Biden did this to protect his son and the energy company on the board he served, thus distorting this.
Zelensky is the latest Ukrainian president to promise to tackle systemic corruption, and he will struggle once he takes office. Officials in the Biden administration hope to be assured that Zelensky remains committed to implementing various reforms.
To this end, a joint statement issued after the meeting on Wednesday emphasized that Ukraine needs to act quickly to select a new specialized anti-corruption prosecutor and pass legislation to reflect the powers and procedures of the country’s national anti-corruption bureau chief. Choose the successor of the institution.
Zelensky is seeking more economic and military assistance from Washington. He said he hoped that Biden would make a clear statement on whether he supports Ukraine’s eventual membership of NATO. In view of the escalating conflict between Ukraine and Russia, NATO members are cautious about this.
The $60 million security plan will include more Javelin anti-tank missiles, which Kiev believes is essential to defend against Russia-backed separatists rolling in in eastern Ukraine. The United States has pledged more than 400 million U.S. dollars in military assistance this year.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki declined to say on Wednesday whether Biden will support Ukraine’s NATO aspirations. She pointed out that this is not a decision that the United States can make alone, and said that the United States still supports Ukraine’s efforts to reform its defense sector and take other necessary steps to embark on the path of joining NATO.
The pipeline Beixi 2 built under the Baltic Sea is the most important issue of tension in the relations between the two countries. By allowing Russia to bypass Ukraine, it could deprive Ukraine of the billions of dollars in transit fees that Ukraine now earns from sending Russian gas to Europe.
Although the United States also opposed the new pipeline, fearing that it would give Russia too much power to supply European energy, Biden agreed in July not to punish the German company that oversees the project.
The joint statement stated that the United States will work hard to ensure the supply of natural gas in Ukraine. The two countries also agreed to improve the corporate governance of Ukrainian state-owned energy companies and attract foreign investment necessary for Ukraine to achieve energy independence.
Associated Press writers Josh Boak in Washington and Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed to this article.