Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyyy is heading to Washington for a summit with President Joe Biden on Wednesday, as well as to give an address to Congress, making it the first known trip out of the country since the Russian invasion began there in February. Zelenskyyy said on his Twitter account the visit was to bolster resilience and defense capabilities of the country, and discuss cooperation between his country and the United States with President Biden.
President Biden and Zelenskyyy first discussed the idea of visiting Washington in their recent telephone conversation, Dec. 11, with the official invitation coming three days later, according to a senior U.S. administration official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the visit.
The talks were mostly cordial, with Biden commending the country’s continued resilience in confronting Russia’s moves, and Zelenskyyy thanked the American president for his support.
In a statement on Tuesday evening, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that President Biden is looking forward to the visit, and the speech before Congress would show strong, bipartisan support for Ukraine.
President Biden is traveling next week to Belgium’s capital, Brussels, to meet NATO leaders and discuss the crisis in Ukraine, and reassure allies about U.S. commitments to NATO. Joe Biden has condemned Vladimir Putin as a war criminal, issuing his strongest condemnation of the Russian leader to date hours after Ukraine’s president begged Congress for more help in his country.
President Biden and NATO ruled out imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, saying that enforcing one would bring the U.S. and NATO into direct conflict with Russia and would escalate the conflict.
Zelenskyyy’s trip to Washington comes as the Pentagon ramps-up its Ukraine effort with sophisticated weapons that the U.S. would be sending the country to strengthen its air defenses against what has been a growing barrage of Russian missiles over the past few weeks.
On Wednesday, the U.S. is also expected to announce a large $1.8 billion military assistance package for Ukraine, which for the first time will include Patriot missile batteries and precision-guided bombs for its fighters, U.S. officials said. This comes as US lawmakers are about to vote on the end-of-year spending package, which includes around USD 45 billion in emergency assistance for the country.
The tranche of American money before Congress will represent the largest American injection of aid yet to the country—even larger still than President Biden’s $37 billion emergency request in November—and is meant to provide a steady stream of support for the war effort in coming months.
The decision to dispatch the Patriot Missiles came despite threats by the Russian foreign ministry that the shipment of an advanced surface-to-air missile system would be considered a provocative move, and that Patriot, and any accompanying crew, would be a legal target for Moscow’s military. It is not clear when the Patriot missiles would reach the country’s front lines, as American troops will need to train Ukrainian forces in the use of the highly sophisticated system.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has encouraged lawmakers to show up to the session on Wednesday night. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accepted a formal invitation Friday, which was confirmed on Sunday, as the White House began to coordinate with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on scheduling the Congressional speech.
The White House has been consulting with Zelenskyyy about his safety leaving the country and traveling to Washington, including the risks of Russian actions when Zelenskyyy is out of the country briefly, added a senior administration official, who declined to elaborate on measures taken to protect the Ukrainian leader, who has
framed as the front line in the global struggle to defend democratic values.
Zelenskyyy’s address followed a similar one he gave to Britain’s Parliament, where he cited Shakespeare and repeated the famous wartime words spoken by Winston Churchill in the House of Commons on the subject of standing up to the oppressor’s overwhelming numbers. The Ukrainian President called Tuesday for Canada’s Parliament, as well as the nation’s vast Ukrainian diaspora, to unite behind his country.
From Ukraine’s besieged capital, Zelenskyyy had implored congress to do more to defend his country from the vicious Russian invasion, making an emotional appeal that evoked the bitter memories of Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 terror attacks, and resonated with Martin Luther King’s calls for a more peaceful future.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyyy is headed overseas after making what he described as a courageous, risky journey on Tuesday to the most dangerous point along Ukraine’s 800-mile-long front lines of conflict, the town of Bakhmuth, in the disputed Donetsk region.
Photo: President of Ukraine