Biden to meet Ukraine leader amid tensions over Russia

US foreign policy updates

Joe Biden will seek to reassure Ukraine of America’s “ironclad” commitment to its sovereignty at a White House meeting with President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, a senior US administration official said.

The meeting between the US president and Zelensky follows tensions between Washington and Kyiv that have surfaced in recent months over the US approach to Russia, with Ukrainian officials concerned that the Biden administration’s attitude towards Moscow has been too lenient.

They have been wary of both Biden’s decision to hold a summit with Vladimir Putin in June in Geneva and his move to strike a deal in July with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, to end America’s dispute over the Nordstream 2 pipeline delivering Russian gas to Germany.

But the senior Biden administration official suggested the US president would attempt to ease the worries in Kyiv about America’s resolve to protect Ukraine.

“I expect President Biden to convey his ironclad commitment to Ukraine’s security, sovereignty and Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” the official said.

The official pushed back against any suggestion that the relationship with Ukraine had been downgraded or neglected.

They said: “President Zelensky and Ukraine have gotten as much, if not more, attention from this administration than any other European country. In terms of visits to the Oval Office, we had Chancellor Merkel here several weeks ago.

“But otherwise, President Zelensky is the second European leader that is going to be having a meeting in the Oval Office.”

Fears in Kyiv about America’s determination to shield Ukraine from any new Russian aggression could escalate in light of the non-interventionist policy doctrine that Biden described in a speech about the US pullout from Afghanistan on Tuesday, which rejected large-scale American military interventions and nation-building efforts.

But US administration officials said that during Wednesday’s meeting Biden would announce a new $60m security assistance package for Ukraine, and the Pentagon would be signing “a strategic defence framework” to tackle co-operation on security in the Black Sea, cyber security and intelligence sharing.

The meeting between Biden and Zelensky was pushed back by a day: the original August 31 date coincided with the deadline for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.

“Bringing two heads of state together is a complicated and fast-moving process. I don’t want to overly analyse the logistics here, other than to say that we want this meeting to receive the attention that it deserves,” the senior administration official said.

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