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President Volodymyr Zelensky flew to Washington, D.C., on Dec. 21 to meet his U.S. counterpart Joe Biden, leaving the country for the first time since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February to discuss bilateral cooperation between the two nations.
Biden and U.S. First Lady Jill Biden greeted Zelensky before they went inside for what the White House dubbed an “in-depth strategic discussion on the way ahead on the battlefield.”
Speaking at a joint news conference following their discussions, Biden condemned Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “inhumane, brutal war” which is threatening civilians, including children. Biden added that Moscow is “going to fail.”
Biden said the U.S. will do “everything in its power” to strengthen Ukraine, especially as Russia is “using winter as a weapon” to make ordinary Ukrainians suffer amid its battlefield setbacks.
“We are going to give Ukraine what it needs to succeed on the battlefield,” Biden said.
Zelensky said that the topics discussed with Biden included strategic steps that Ukraine would take to defend itself, as well as “what to expect next year and for what we are preparing for.”
Thanking Biden for his “candid support” and understanding of Ukraine, Zelensky hailed Washington’s new military aid for his country.
Zelensky’s carefully planned visit, which he said is intended to strengthen Ukraine’s “resilience and defense capabilities,” comes as Russia intensifies its months-long missile and drone campaign to take out Ukraine’s energy system. Heavy fighting continues to rage in the country's east and south.
But in recent months, Ukraine’s counteroffensive has kicked off successfully, allowing Kyiv to recapture more than half of the territories that Russia had occupied since its February invasion. Moscow’s most recent humiliating defeat was its withdrawal from Kherson in November – the only regional capital it managed to seize this year.
Biden invited Zelensky to the U.S. because he “really believes” that the war has reached “a new phase” and it is “a good time for the two leaders to sit down face-to-face and talk,” John Kirby, the strategic communications coordinator for the U.S. National Security Council, told CNN.
The two leaders, who communicated regularly over the phone but are meeting in person for the first time since 2021, are also expected to discuss how the war might end, Kirby added.
Shortly before Zelensky’s arrival in Washington, the U.S. announced $1.85 billion in additional military assistance for Ukraine, which includes the first transfer of Kyiv’s long-sought Patriot air defense system.
However, the Patriot system is unlikely to arrive in Ukraine before spring, with the accompanying U.S.-led training expected to take place before the equipment transfer, the Washington Post reported, citing an anonymous official who spoke to reporters before the official announcement.
Earlier, Moscow had warned Washington against handing over the Patriot system to Kyiv, and it threatened to target the advanced air defense equipment if it were to arrive in Ukraine.
While international attention was focused on Zelensky’s highly sensitive visit, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed he was ready to provide an unlimited financial buffer for his military to continue the raging war against Ukraine.
In his speech to senior Russian defense officials in Moscow, Putin claimed that his army should fix problems within and the government was ready to provide any equipment and hardware that it needed.
Putin did not comment on Zelensky’s trip to the U.S., or Washington’s newly-announced military assistance for Ukraine.