Biden meets with Zelenskyy in Washington
The Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived at the White House yesterday launching a dramatic visit to the US – his first trip outside his homeland since it was invaded 300 days ago – to rally his top international partner behind sustained military and economic assistance.
Zelenskyy arrived to the South Lawn just after 2 p.m. ET – eschewing a suit and instead wearing his now-familiar military green shirt – was met by President Joe Biden, who invited him to visit the White House earlier this month. The men shook hands ahead of what were expected to be lengthy talks about the path forward in Ukraine.
“I am in Washington today to thank the American people, the President and the Congress for their much-needed support. And also to continue cooperation to bring our victory closer,” Zelenskyy said in a post on his official Telegram channel.
“I will hold a series of negotiations to strengthen the resilience and defense capabilities of Ukraine. In particular, we will discuss bilateral cooperation between Ukraine and the United States of America with US President Joseph Biden,” he said.
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“Next year, we must return the Ukrainian flag and freedom to our entire land, to all our people,” he said.
The trip, which US and Ukrainian officials arranged in secret over the past week, came with heavy risks. After arriving in Poland by train, Zelenskyy flew to Washington aboard an American military aircraft, US officials said. He arrived in the US shortly after midday, a source familiar with his travels told CNN. A separate source said he landed at Joint Base Andrews, just outside the nation’s capital.
He visited the Oval Office in the afternoon for extended talks with US President Joe Biden, who announced he is sending nearly $2 billion in additional security assistance to Ukraine, including a sophisticated new air defense system. The two will convene a White House news conference before Zelenskyy addresses members of Congress on Capitol Hill in prime time.
The visit by the Ukrainian leader to Washington, which lasted only a matter of hours, amounts to a remarkable moment 10 months since Russia’s war in Ukraine began.
“The President really believes that as we approach winter, as we enter … a new phase in this war, of Mr. Putin’s aggression, that this is a good time for the two leaders to sit down face to face and talk,” said John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator at the National Security Council, on “CNN This Morning.”
Pulled together quickly by American and Ukrainian officials over the past 10 days, the wartime visit is meant to demonstrate in stirring fashion the continued American commitment to Ukraine at a moment when Biden’s ability to maintain that support at home and abroad is being tested.
It also provided an opportunity for Biden and top American officials to sound out Zelensky on how he viewed the trajectory of the conflict, and offered their thoughts on what it would take to bring the war to an end.
“(Biden) will reinforce the fundamental message on this trip to President Zelensky directly – to the Ukrainian people, the American people and the world publicly – that the United States will stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes,” a senior administration official said.
A surprise visit
Biden first discussed the prospect of Zelensky visiting Washington during a telephone call with the Ukrainian leader on December 11, an administration official said. A formal invitation was extended a week ago that Zelensky accepted, launching joint consultations on the security parameters of the risky, highly secretive trip.
Zelensky, who the official said was “very keen” to visit the US, determined those parameters met his needs, and the US set to work executing them. The trip was finally confirmed on Sunday.
“We are working in lockstep with him and his staff to make sure we can make this trip safely, both coming to the United States and coming back. We will continue to support his travel requirements as best we can,” Kirby said.