Biden extends limited US backing to Ukrainian counterpart Zelenskiy
US President Joe Biden has told his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskiy that he still has Washington’s backing, as the Afghanistan debacle raises questions about the White House’s commitment to international affairs.
“The United States remains firmly committed to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression and our support for Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations,” Biden told Zelenskiy in the Oval Office, the second visit by a European leader during his administration.
Zelenskiy is in Washington asking for military assistance against Russian-backed separatists.
Russia’s war with Ukraine has left more than 13,200 people dead and devastated Ukraine’s economy.
The White House visit was a success for the former comedian, who has been asking for an invite to Washington since he took office in 2019.
Donald Trump asked Zelenskiy to launch a corruption probe into Biden’s son Hunter ahead of the 2020 presidential election, sparking an unsuccessful impeachment process over accusations Trump tried to block military aid to Kiev to pressure Zelenskiy.
Zelenskiy’s meeting was delayed by two days amid the shambolic US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
He ambitiously asked Biden about the chances of Ukraine joining Nato.
A key factor behind the current crisis in relations between the US and Russia is Nato’s previous eastward expansion into former Warsaw Pact countries like Poland and the Baltic states.
The 1997 Nato-Russia Founding Act, while not a legally binding commitment, said Nato had “no intention, no plan and no reason to deploy nuclear weapons on the territory of new members … and do not foresee any future need to do so”.
It also promised to not locate bases on its new eastern border through the “permanent stationing of substantial combat forces”. Poland has urged the US to regard that provision as void after Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine.
“I would like to discuss with President Biden his vision, his government’s vision of Ukraine’s chances to join Nato and the timeframe,” the Ukrainian president said.
Biden made it clear he considered Ukraine far from prepared to join the military alliance and that the US was also not ready to anger Russia.
Nato membership conditions include rule of law reforms, defence sector modernisation and a healthy economy.
The US says Russia has refused to extend the mandate of international monitors to observe two border crossing points with Ukraine.
“The United States deeply regrets that the Russian Federation has indicated that it will not join consensus to extend the mission’s mandate and financing arrangement at the end of September,” stated Courtney Austrian of the US mission to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Austrian‘s statement said the OSCE mission provided “impartial reporting” of two border crossings and helped build confidence between the warring neighbours.
She condemned Russian moves to end the mandate “looks to be just the latest in a long line of broken promises and the most recent demonstration that maintaining positive relations with its neighbours is simply not a priority for Russia”.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Picture credit: Wikimedia