| 18 April 2024, Thursday |

Biden to pledge security aid in first meeting with Ukraine’s Zelenskiy

On Wednesday, President Joe Biden will meet with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and a US official said he will give strong support for Ukraine’s sovereignty in the face of Russian aggression, as well as a promise of $60 million in security aid.

The two leaders are likely to discuss their disagreements over the Nord Stream 2 project, which Ukraine worries might be used as a geopolitical weapon by Russia, among other concerns, in their first face-to-face meeting since Biden took office in January.

After playing an unintentional and high-profile role in the process that led to former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment, Zelenskiy paid a visit to the White House.

In a 2019 phone discussion with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, Trump, a Republican who lost the 2020 presidential race to Democrat Biden, pushed Poroshenko to probe Biden and his son, Hunter, who worked as a director for a Ukrainian energy company. The phone call launched a campaign to oust Trump from office.

The European leaders’ summit on Wednesday comes as a result of Biden’s unexpected exit from Afghanistan, which has forced some partners to question the US’s security obligations.

A senior Biden administration official told reporters in advance of the meeting that Biden will offer his “ironclad commitment” to protect Ukraine’s security and sovereignty.

Ukraine and Russia have been at odds since Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and backed separatists in a conflict in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region, which Ukraine says has killed 14,000 people.

Biden plans to promise a new $60 million security assistance package for Ukraine that the official said would include Javelin anti-armor systems and other “defensive lethal and non-lethal capabilities” as well as $45 million in humanitarian aid.

The meeting comes after the Biden administration announced a deal last month with Germany intended partly to allay Ukrainian concerns about the Nord Stream 2 pipeline being built under the Baltic Sea to carry gas from Russia’s Arctic region to Germany.

Ukraine is concerned Nord Stream 2, a gas pipeline from Russia to Germany that bypasses Ukraine,could embolden Moscow to take further action against Kyiv and has sought guarantees over its status as a gas transit country once the pipeline becomes operational.

Biden and Zelenskiy are expected to agree to “strategic energy and climate dialogue” as a way to discuss Ukraine’s broader energy goals, the official said.

The U.S. Department of Energy said on Tuesday that officials from both countries had signed a letter of intent to cooperate on energy and climate change.

Ukraine’s drive for NATO membership will also come up in the talks. Zelenskiy told reporters in June he wanted a clear “yes” or “no” from Biden on giving Ukraine a plan to join the NATO military alliance.

Zelenskiy has urged NATO members to accelerate Ukraine’s entry into the alliance after a standoff with Russia this year that saw Russia mass additional troops and military equipment near Ukraine’s borders.

NATO allies believe Ukraine needs to adopt more political reforms before gaining membership. The official said Biden plans to praise Zelenskiy for his reforms but say more is needed.

“We believe strongly that Ukraine can and should enact additional reforms to strengthen its democracy, and the United States will continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to do so,” the official said.

  • Reuters