Why Ukraine's Zelensky is making a risky trip to meet Biden

Making a dramatic, dangerous wartime go to, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrived on the White Home Wednesday and met with President Biden in a bid to shore up and maintain help for his nation’s brutal battle with Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Along with a heat welcome from Biden, administration officers and enthused supporters of Ukraine, Zelensky was greeted with the president’s announcement of $1.8 billion in new assist, together with a complicated Patriot missile battery that Kyiv has lengthy sought.

Carrying drab olive fatigues, Zelensky stood for a second in frigid daylight on a pink carpet going through the South Garden of the White Home. Biden and First Girl Jill Biden, flanked by U.S. and Ukrainian flags, shook Zelensky’s hand and whispered just a few feedback. Then Biden put his arm round Zelensky and the trio turned and entered the White Home collectively.

Zelensky’s go to to the U.S., his first identified journey exterior his nation since Russia invaded 300 days in the past, was a carefully guarded secret till the eve of his arrival. It’s fraught with danger and hazard and shrouded in excessive safety measures.

After the White Home assembly with Biden, Cupboard members and the U.S. nationwide safety group, the youthful chief — whose nightly video addresses have served as an essential morale booster for his individuals — will maintain a information convention aimed toward reaching the American public.

“I’m in Washington right this moment to thank the American individuals, the President and the Congress for his or her much-needed help. And in addition to proceed cooperation to convey our victory nearer,” Zelensky mentioned on his official Telegram channel forward of his arrival on the White Home.

Later, he’ll meet Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and ship a speech to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill.

In the beginning of his journey, Zelensky arrived in Poland by prepare, accompanied by U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink, earlier than flying on a U.S. Air Power jet to a navy base exterior Washington. He arrived round midday native time, was greeted by American navy officers and the Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S., and was transported by motorcade to the center of the nation’s capital, the place a yellow-and-blue Ukrainian flag flew over Blair Home, the standard lodging for visiting heads of state.

Zelensky has beforehand used video communication to make impassioned pleas for assist to nationwide legislative our bodies the world over, in addition to the United Nations and gatherings of world leaders at main summits.

An in-person look within the capital of Ukraine’s most essential ally carries extraordinary significance. Zelensky will be capable to emphasize that Ukraine has defied predictions of a swift collapse within the face of Russian navy would possibly. He may even be capable to draw extra consideration to his nation’s want for continued help.

As some Republicans start to query whether or not navy and humanitarian help for Ukraine ought to proceed at present ranges, and as sure components of the U.S. public start to point out indicators of impatience with the warfare effort, Zelensky’s name for steadfast American backing has taken on added urgency.

On Wednesday morning, simply hours earlier than Zelensky’s arrival, Biden introduced a brand new tranche of $1.8 billion in assist. That assist will embrace a Patriot missile battery, the surface-to-air guided missile system Kyiv has requested for months, in keeping with a senior administration official. The Pentagon calls the Patriot system “one of many world’s most superior air protection capabilities.”

U.S. forces will prepare Ukrainians on utilizing the system in a 3rd nation, the official mentioned, and “Ukrainian troops will take that coaching again to their nation to function this battery.”

Lawmakers are additionally getting ready to vote on a $1.7-trillion end-of-year funding invoice for 2023 that features $45 billion of further financial and safety help for Ukraine. Some Home Republicans have expressed reluctance to approve extra help for Ukraine after they take management of the decrease chamber subsequent yr, however a senior administration official informed reporters the White Home is “assured” of continued bipartisan help for Kyiv. Zelensky’s look on Capitol Hill would underscore that dedication, the official added.

“This isn’t about sending a message to a political social gathering. That is about sending a message to [Vladimir] Putin and sending a message to the world that America can be there for Ukraine for so long as it takes,” mentioned the official, who briefed reporters the situation of anonymity to debate particulars of the journey.

In remarks on the Senate flooring Wednesday, Senate Minority Chief Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) mentioned that continued help for Ukraine was not solely morally proper however “a direct funding in chilly, laborious, American pursuits.”

Defeating Russia, McConnell mentioned, would additionally “ship a stark warning” to China.

Zelensky’s assembly with Biden can be his second look on the White Home. The 2 leaders first met in September 2021, when Biden reiterated his administration’s dedication to “Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within the face of Russian aggression” and American help for Kyiv’s “Euro-Atlantic aspirations.”

Biden invited Zelensky for this go to when the 2 spoke by cellphone on Dec. 11; a proper invitation adopted three days later, in keeping with an official. Zelensky accepted the invite on Friday. On Sunday, the White Home started coordinating with Home Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s workplace to rearrange Zelensky’s look earlier than Congress. Pelosi hinted at Zelensky’s go to in a letter to colleagues on Tuesday, urging members to look in individual “for a really particular deal with Democracy.”

In saying the joint session of Congress, scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Japanese time, Pelosi mentioned Zelensky’s look recalled Winston Churchill’s congressional go to on the day after Christmas in 1941 to win American help in World Struggle II. Pelosi’s father, Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., was a member of the Home on the time.

“Eighty-one years later this week, it’s notably poignant for me to be current when one other heroic chief addresses the Congress in a time of warfare — and with Democracy itself on the road,” she wrote.

The Ukrainian president has grow to be a family title in Washington, having performed a key function in former President Trump’s first impeachment trial. As a newly elected president, Zelensky obtained a name from Trump threatening to chop off navy assist to Ukraine until he dug up grime on Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. Joe Biden, then a Democratic rival getting ready to launch his presidential bid, had led an anti-corruption push in Ukraine as vice chairman.

Ukraine had already been at restricted warfare with Russia, after Putin invaded and illegally annexed Crimea, Ukraine’s southern Black Sea peninsula, in 2014.

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