Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with President Joe Biden on Wednesday to firm up ties with his country’s top ally against Russia’s ongoing invasion, marking his first known trip outside Ukraine’s borders since the Russia launched a full-scale invasion of the country 10 months ago.
In a joint White House press conference, Zelenskyy and Biden made some key comments:
1. The U.S. will assist Ukraine “as long as it takes.”
During the press conference, Biden said reaffirmed U.S. support for Ukraine and said the U.S. would continue to provide aid to Ukraine for “as long as it takes.”
Biden said the continued support for Ukraine will allow them to win on the battlefield so that Ukraine won’t have to go to the negotiating table with Russia until it’s ready to negotiate from a position of strength.
“We both want this war to end, we both want it to end and as I’ve said, it could end today if [Russian President Vladimir Putin] had any dignity at all and did the right thing and just said ‘pull out,’ but that’s not going to happen. It’s not going to happen now,” Biden said. “So what comes next, what we talked about it today was we’re going to help Ukraine succeed on the battlefield . . . so that if and when President Zelenskyy is ready to talk with the Russians, he will be able to succeed as well because he will have won on the battlefield.”
2. Russia is using “winter as a weapon” against Ukraine
Zelenskyy said Russia is using winter as a weapon against Ukraine. This comment comes as Russian forces have repeatedly targeted the Ukrainian power grid with missile and drone strikes, causing black outs and leaving large portions of the country without power. Russia could be using these widespread power outages to weaken the Ukrainian resolve to continue to fight back.
3. Biden says giving Ukraine more support could “break up NATO” and avoid WW3
Zelenskyy’s visit came as the U.S. announced its largest single delivery of military aid to Ukraine – a $1.85 billion package including sophisticated Patriot surface-to-air missiles defense systems for the first time – and Congress was set to vote on a spending bill with about $45 billion in aid for the country.
During the conference, Biden said the U.S. will work with its other allies and partners to expand Ukraine’s military capabilities with four key items, including: air defenses, advanced artillery systems, tanks and other armored vehicles and 200,000 rounds of additional ammunition.
As the press conference continued, a Ukrainian reporter asked why the U.S. wouldn’t just provide all of the military assistance Ukraine wants at once.
Biden replied that he couldn’t give everything Ukraine asked for for two reasons.
“One, there’s an entire alliance that is critical to stay with Ukraine and the idea that we would give Ukraine material that is already going there would have the prospect of breaking up NATO and the European Union and the rest of the world,” Biden said.
Biden said the second part of his concern was about avoiding Russia escalating from its war in Ukraine to a broader conflict.
“I’ve spent several hundred hours with our European allies and the heads of state of those countries, making the case as to why it was overwhelmingly in their interests to support Ukraine,” Biden said. “They understand it fully, but they they’re not looking to go to war with Russia, they’re not looking for a third world war, and I think that can all be avoided by making sure Ukraine is able to succeed on the battlefield.”
During the press conference, Zelenskyy thanked the U.S. for the aid it has already received, but repeatedly commented that he would favor more assistance.
Since Russia invaded, Zelenskyy has made virtual appearances before governments around the world. But his trip to Washington, D.C. is Zelenskyy’s first known foray outside Ukraine since the war began 10 months ago, CNN reported.
The trip was secretly organized among U.S. and Ukrainian officials this month, according to CNN. John Kirby, spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council, said it came at a critical point in the war.
“The president really believes that as we approach winter, as we enter … a new phase in this war, of Mr. Putin’s aggression, that this is a good time for the two leaders to sit down face to face and talk,” Kirby said on “CNN This Morning.”
On his Telegram channel, Zelenskyy said he was coming to thank America for its aid and work to secure more of it, CNN reported.
“I will hold a series of negotiations to strengthen the resilience and defense capabilities of Ukraine. In particular, we will discuss bilateral cooperation between Ukraine and the United States of America with US President Joseph Biden,” Zelenskyy wrote, adding, “Next year, we must return the Ukrainian flag and freedom to our entire land, to all our people.”