Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will make a dramatic surprise visit to Washington on Wednesday, using his first foreign trip since his homeland was invaded 300 days ago to mobilize support from his top international partners Ongoing military and economic assistance.
He will visit the Oval Office in the afternoon for a lengthy meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, who will announce nearly $2 billion in additional security aid to Ukraine, including an advanced new air defense system. The pair will hold a White House news conference ahead of Zelensky’s prime-time address to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
The Ukrainian leader’s visit to Washington was expected to last only a few hours, but it was a remarkable occasion 10 months after Russia’s war on Ukraine began.
The wartime visit was quickly called by U.S. and Ukrainian officials over the past 10 days as an exciting way to demonstrate America’s continued commitment to Ukraine at a time when Biden’s ability to sustain support at home and abroad is being tested.
“(Biden) will, during this visit to President Zelensky, publicly emphasize the fundamental message directly to the people of Ukraine, the people of America and the world that the United States will stand with Ukraine for as long as needed,” a senior administration official said. Say.
An administration official said Biden first discussed the possibility of Zelensky’s visit to Washington during a Dec. 11 phone call with the Ukrainian leader. Zelensky accepted a formal invitation a week ago to launch joint consultations on the security parameters of the dangerous, highly classified visit.
The official said Zelensky was “very eager” to visit the U.S., and that he determined the parameters based on his needs, while the U.S. proceeded to enforce them. The trip was finally confirmed on Sunday.
U.S. officials declined to provide further details about security arrangements ahead of the trip, including whether Zelensky was flown out of his country on a U.S. military plane. Transit in and out of the country is very difficult. Western leaders who have visited Kyiv in the past year have all traveled by long-distance train from Poland.
“This is something we’ve wanted to do for some time,” the administration official said, noting that it came 300 days after Russia began its incursion in February. Still, the official said, “there is no mathematical formula for determining the correct date for President Zelensky’s first foreign trip,” and that neither the U.S. nor Zelensky will stop making travel decisions because of Russia’s actions.
“Russia will continue to do what Russia does and we will continue to do what we do. promote the interests of his people,” the official said.
When Zelensky arrives at the White House, he will meet with Biden and key members of the U.S. national security team for lengthy talks. The official said Biden and Zelensky would have “deep strategic discussions about the way forward on the battlefield,” as well as the training and capabilities that Western partners are providing Ukraine, the sanctions they have imposed on Russia and the sanctions on Ukraine. Economic and energy assistance. Ukrainian people.
Over the course of the 10-month incursion, Zelensky has become the international face of the Ukrainian resistance and has spent much of the year calling on countries for support. He has remained in his country during the war, reflecting both his desire to fight alongside the besieged country and the volatile security situation he will face outside Ukraine.
However, international support for Ukraine is being tested as the war approaches its one-year anniversary. Sanctions on Moscow have led to higher energy prices, especially in Europe, which relies heavily on Russian oil and gas. In the US, Republicans poised to take control of the House of Representatives have indicated they will not approve a massive new aid package for Ukraine anytime soon.
On the battlefield, Ukraine has recaptured major cities and is showing unlikely resistance to an ill-prepared and poorly equipped Russian army. But Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no sign he intends to relax and has been relentlessly targeting civilian energy infrastructure, bringing some degree of misery to Ukraine’s frigid winter.
Zelensky seemed ripe for a dramatic gesture, such as sneaking out of Ukraine for the first time since the invasion began. For Biden, the visit presents an opportunity to reinforce his belief in support of Ukraine even as the war continues.
“We know that in the coming days, the conflict will continue,” the senior administration official said. “Winter will be tough, and we will continue to provide vital support to the people of Ukraine day in and day out.”
Biden is set to unveil a new $1.8 billion package that includes a Patriot surface-to-air missile system, long requested by Ukraine to fend off Russian airstrikes. CNN first reported that the US was expected to send the Patriot system to Ukraine.
Unlike smaller air defense systems, Patriot missile batteries require far more personnel, dozens of personnel, to operate them properly. Patriot missile battery training typically takes months, a process the U.S. will now perform under the pressure of near-daily Russian airstrikes.
The U.S. military will train Ukrainians to use the system in third countries, the official said. CNN previously reported that the training will take place at the U.S. Army base in Grafenwohr, Germany.
The system is widely considered one of the most powerful long-range weapons for defending airspace against incoming ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as certain aircraft. Because of its long-range and high-altitude capabilities, it has the potential to shoot down Russian missiles and aircraft far from its intended targets inside Ukraine.
Russia has warned of unclear “consequences” if the U.S. supplies Ukraine with Patriot missiles, viewing the shipments as further U.S. involvement in the war. However, the official is well aware that despite the increased security aid, Biden remains steadfast in preventing the United States from engaging in direct conflict with Russia.
“The president has made it very clear that we will lean forward and stand firmly behind Ukraine militarily, economically, energy and humanitarianly, but we are not seeking direct war with Russia. None of that will change tomorrow,” said the officials said.