Post-Trump, Ukrainian leader will push Biden to gain US support
WASHINGTON (AP) – The Ukrainian leader who found himself trapped in Donald Trump’s first impeachment comes to Washington to see a new US president, seeking increased military aid and backing his country’s candidacy for membership in NATO.
The White House said Wednesday’s meeting between President Joe Biden and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was aimed at showing support for Ukraine’s sovereignty in the face of Russia’s seizure of Crimea and support for armed separatists in the is of the country. Biden also intends to encourage Zelenskyy’s anti-corruption efforts and reassure him that the United States will help protect Ukraine’s energy security.
Ahead of the session, the Biden administration said it was committing up to $ 60 million in new military aid to Ukraine. The administration said in a notification to Congress that the aid was needed because of a “significant increase in Russian military activity along its border” and because of mortar attacks, ceasefire violations. fire and other provocations.
Zelenskyy is expected to discuss Washington’s decision not to block construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would bring Russian natural gas directly to Germany, bypassing Ukraine. Ukraine and Poland as well as Republicans and Congressional Democrats vehemently oppose the pipeline, with Zelenskyy describing it as a powerful geopolitical weapon for Russia.
The White House meeting, originally scheduled for Monday, was postponed for two days as Biden and his national security team were consumed by the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan. The pullout, which ended on Monday, left behind many Afghans who had worked with the Americans and their allies and now fear the Taliban regime. This led to criticism that the United States was less than a reliable international partner, which Biden might be keen to counter.
Zelenskyy, a television actor new to politics, took office in May 2019 concerned with strengthening his country’s relations with the United States. Instead, he almost immediately found himself under pressure from Trump’s envoys and soon from Trump himself, who, during the phone call that led to his impeachment, asked Zelenskyy to “surrender to us. service”.
In that now famous July 2019 call, Trump asked Zelenskyy to open an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Trump’s envoy to the European Union Gordon Sondland later told impeachment investigators that Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani had explicitly called for a “quid pro quo” in which a visit to the Oval Office would be contingent on the opening by Zelenskyy of the politically charged investigations desired by Trump.
“Was there a ‘quid pro quo’? Sondland asked. “To the White House call and White House meeting requested, the answer is yes.”
Besides the coveted White House invitation, Sondland also said he understood Trump was withholding nearly $ 400 million in military aid until Ukraine announced the investigation.
Claims that Trump withheld military aid approved by Congress while seeking help from Ukraine for his re-election campaign formed the basis of the House Democrats’ impeachment case against him. Trump was eventually acquitted by the Senate, and the Oval Office meeting with Zelenskyy never took place.
Along with Biden, Zelenskyy now has an American president with a long history of involvement in Ukraine, who has supported his determination to break free from Russia, consolidate his young democracy and be better received in the Western club.
As vice president, Biden was the Obama administration’s contact person for Ukraine and lobbied for tougher anti-corruption measures. He once bragged about having succeeded in sacking Ukraine’s chief prosecutor, who had blocked some corruption investigations. Trump then twisted that by insisting, mistakenly, that Biden had done it to protect his son and the energy company he served in.
Zelenskyy is the last Ukrainian president to pledge to fight systemic corruption and then fight once in power. On Wednesday, Biden will likely want reassurance that Zelenskyy remains committed to pursuing a series of reforms.
Zelenskyy is also seeking new economic and military assistance as Ukraine faces hostile Russia on its eastern border. And he said he wanted a clear statement from Biden on whether he supported Ukraine’s possible NATO membership. NATO members are wary of the latent conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
On Nord Stream 2, Zelenskyy is likely to point out that the pipeline would not only give Russia too much power over energy supply, but could potentially rob Ukraine of the billions of dollars in transit fees it now earns for the pumping Russian gas to Europe.
As the United States opposes the new pipeline, Biden has agreed not to penalize the German company overseeing the project. Under the July deal, the United States and Germany pledged to counter any Russian attempt to use the pipeline as a political weapon and to support Ukraine by funding alternative energy and development projects. .
Russian President Vladimir Putin published a lengthy essay in July defending his claim that Russians and Ukrainians are “one people” and accusing the West of working methodically to destroy Ukraine’s historic ties with Russia and make a bulwark against Moscow. “I am convinced that the true sovereignty of Ukraine is only possible in partnership with Russia”, concluded Putin.
Alexander Vershbow, former NATO Assistant Secretary General and US Ambassador to Russia, says it is essential for the security of the US and its European allies to ensure that Putin does not succeed.
“That is why Ukraine’s fight for freedom is also our fight. Because if Putin succeeds, Ukraine will not be the last victim of Russian aggression, ”Vershbow wrote last week in an article for the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.