Key developments on Dec. 21:
- Zelensky visits Washington, meets Biden
- US announces $1.85 billion military assistance, including transfer of Patriot air defense system
- Washington Post: Kyiv’s long-sought Patriot system not expected to arrive before spring
- Putin claims his army has ‘no financial limits,’ acknowledges ‘certain problems’ in fall mobilization campaign
President Volodymyr Zelensky met with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 21.
This is Zelensky’s first foreign trip since Russia launched an all-out war against Ukraine in February.
Speaking at a joint news conference after their talks, Biden condemned Russian President Vladimir “Putin’s inhumane brutal war” saying Moscow is “going to fail.”
Biden added that the U.S. would do “everything in its power” to strengthen Ukraine, especially as Russia is “using winter as a weapon” to make Ukrainian civilians suffer amid Moscow’s 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.
Biden invited Zelensky 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 National Security Council, told CNN.
Prior to the face-to-face meeting, the U.S. announced a new $1.85 billion military aid package for Ukraine, which includes the first long-sought Patriot air defense system.
The U.S. is helping Ukraine bolster its military capabilities amid Kremlin’s months-long attempts to “wipe Ukraine off the map,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“Now, Russia is trying to weaponize winter by freezing and starving Ukrainian civilians and forcing families from their homes,” Blinken said as he unveiled Washington’s new defense package.
The assistance will include a $1 billion drawdown to provide Ukraine with “expanded air defense and precision-strike capabilities,” as well as “an additional $850 million of security assistance,” according to Blinken.
Prior, the transfer of the Patriot system had been blocked by “specific” NATO allies for months, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently said.
Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said in a Dec. 20 briefing that the large-scale drone attack on Dec. 19 had hit “a high-voltage network,” and the power situation is “really difficult” even though repairs are underway.
While the Patriot system could immensely help Ukraine shoot down ballistic missiles, it’s unlikely that it will arrive in the country before March, the Washington Post reported, citing an anonymous official who spoke to reporters prior to the official announcement.
Ukraine will be receiving one Patriot battery, made up of up to eight launchers with four to 16 missiles, the Washington Post reported.
U.S.-led training is to take place before the equipment is transferred from a third country, likely Germany.
Zelensky meets Biden
Despite the long travel time, Zelensky’s stay in the U.S. is only expected to last eight hours.
Zelensky said the trip, which he only officially confirmed hours before his flight to the U.S., is to strengthen Ukraine's “resilience and defense capabilities.”
“I am in Washington today to thank the American people, the President, and the Congress for their much-needed support,” Zelensky said as he arrived.
Briefly speaking to reporters, Zelensky thanked the “ordinary people” of the U.S. for their continued support, the Associated Press wrote.
Biden told Zelensky that the people of Ukraine "continue to impress the world,” and “it’s an honor to be by your side,” pledging to continue financial, military, and humanitarian assistance for Ukraine, according to the Associated Press.
A day prior, Zelensky visited the front-line city of Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast, now the epicenter of the war.
Zelensky is also expected to visit to Capitol Hill, where he will give an in-person address to Congress. The Ukrainian leader will also hold a meeting with the outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
‘No financial limits’
Russian President Vladimir Putin admitted that there were “certain problems” with the mobilization he had announced in September, but he was ready to continue allocating funds and resources to be spent on war.
Putin added that he was ready to provide his army with whatever it needed to continue its brutal war against Ukraine.
“There were no financial limits on what the government would provide in terms of equipment and hardware,” Putin claimed in his speech to senior Russian defense officials, signaling that Russia isn’t interested in peace talks anytime soon.
Putin’s comments come after a series of humiliating battlefield setbacks and an allegedly staggeringly high casualty rate among Russian troops.
Russia hasn't achieved any major victory in five months, while a number of reports signal that Russian troops might be losing ground in Bakhmut.
Putin also vowed to ensure that Russia's nuclear forces are combat-ready, adding that Russia's hypersonic Sarmat missile, nicknamed "Satan II" and capable of mounting nuclear strikes against the U.S., will be ready for deployment in the near future.
As Putin escalates his nuclear threat to the West, Russia’s Deputy Chairman of the Security Council, Dmitry Medvedev, traveled to China for an unannounced meeting with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
Medvedev said he had discussed China-Russia’s “no limits” strategic partnership with Xi, as well as Ukraine, Reuters reported.