Russia’s War in Ukraine and Zelensky’s Visit to the United States
Three hundred days after Russia invaded his country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky flew to Washington, DC, for talks on what the next 300 days might bring.
US President Joe Biden and the Ukrainian leader have emerged as a united front, but Biden would not invite Zelensky to Washington – and would not support a risky trip out of Ukraine for the first time since the start of the war – if he didn’t believe anything real could be accomplished meeting face-to-face rather than over the phone.
At the end of their long discussions, the two men clearly indicated that they saw the war entering a new phase.
Here are the key takeaways from Zelensky’s historic visit to Washington so far:
Trying to figure out how the war ends: Getting clarification on Zelensky’s position when it comes to ending the war was part of the prerogative to bring him to the White House. The Ukrainian leader expressed a desire for a “just peace” that would end the conflict – a point that US officials said would be at the center of their discussions on Wednesday.
Among Western nations that have rallied behind Zelensky, there have been lingering worries about what his long-term plan might be. On Wednesday, he appeared to make it clear that the path to ending the war would not involve making concessions to Russia.
“For me, as president, ‘just peace’ is not a compromise,” he said, indicating that he saw no path to peace that would involve Ukraine giving up territory or its sovereignty. For his part, Biden said it was up to Zelensky to “decide how he wants the war to end,” a long-held view that leaves many questions unanswered.
More US aid to Ukraine – including a Patriot missile system: Just before Zelensky’s arrival, the Biden administration announced it would send nearly $2 billion in additional security aid to Ukraine, including a sophisticated new Patriot air defense system that Zelensky has been asking for ever since. months.
Considering a visit, Zelensky suggested to advisers that he did not want to travel to Washington unless there had been a significant development in bilateral relations with the United States, according to a source familiar with the matter. Zelensky viewed the US decision to send a Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine as a major shift in relations between the two allies.
Still, alongside Biden, he was candid that he didn’t see the single Patriot system as enough.
“We would like to have more Patriots,” he said as Biden laughed. “I’m sorry but we are at war.”
A united front in a complicated relationship: On the surface, Biden and Zelensky have maintained a strong partnership. And Zelensky praised Biden as he moved from the Oval Office to the East Room to Capitol Hill.
Still, it doesn’t take much to see the tensions just below the surface. Zelensky has consistently campaigned for additional US support, despite the tens of billions of dollars in military assistance Biden has directed to his country.
That hasn’t always gone over well with Biden or his team. But as he has with a host of other foreign leaders, Biden seemed determined on Wednesday to translate physical closeness into a better understanding of his counterpart.
Read more takeaways here.