US President Joe Biden (File Photo/Reuters)
US President Joe Biden (File Photo/Reuters)

Biden invites Ukraine president to White House in summer

US president Joe Biden's invitation to Volodymyr Zelenskiy comes before Biden is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Geneva next week.
Bloomberg |
PUBLISHED ON JUN 08, 2021 01:55 PM IST

Joe Biden invited his opposite number in Ukraine to visit the White House this summer -- part of efforts to reassure the eastern European country before the U.S. president meets Vladimir Putin in Geneva next week.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia -- high since Putin annexed Crimea in 2014 and fomented a war nearby -- spiked in April as the Kremlin stationed tens of thousands of troops on its neighbor’s border and raised the threat of an invasion.

The fear in Kyiv is that Biden is prepared to make concessions to Putin to win cooperation on issues such as nuclear non-proliferation. In the run-up to the summit, the U.S. all but abandoned efforts to halt Russia’s construction of an undersea natural-gas pipeline to Europe that could deprive Ukraine of vital transit revenue.

In a phone call Monday requested by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Biden reaffirmed strong U.S. support for the former Soviet republic, according to National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

Biden assured Zelenskiy that in his meeting with Putin, “he’ll stand up firmly for Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and aspirations,” Sullivan told reporters.

The two leaders spoke in what was their second phone call this year. In addition to those discussions, Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ukraine in May, promising that the U.S. is taking steps toward boosting security assistance to help counter Russia’s “aggressive” and “destabilizing” actions.

Zelenskiy said Monday in a tweet that his trip to Washington will take place sometime next month and discussions will focus on expanding “strategic cooperation.”

That’s likely to include long-standing goals such as joining NATO, as well as further strengthening ties with the West. The U.S. already supplies Ukraine with military hardware to help it fight Kremlin-backed forces in the conflict in its easternmost regions.

Zelenskiy’s press office initially said Biden stressed his “full support for Ukraine’s euro-Atlantic integration and the importance of a NATO membership plan.” But in an amendment published later, that line was replaced with one from Zelenskiy describing the “importance of granting Ukraine a NATO membership action plan.”

While the U.S. President said he opposes the implementation of Russia’s Nord Stream 2 energy pipeline, Blinken said separately on Monday that the project’s completion is a ‘fait accompli.’

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