- The meeting between Zelenskyy and President Joe Biden in the Oval Office is scheduled to start at 2:00 PM today.
- This will be the first in-person meeting between Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy. After Angela Merkel, Zelenskyy is the second European leader to meet President Biden at the White House. The meeting was originally planned for August 30 but was later rescheduled.
- The two leaders have already spoken twice by phone – in April and in June. The second phone call took place before Biden-Putin summit in Geneva.
- Zelenskyy’s visit to the White House will be the first by a Ukrainian leader in more than four years. His predecessor Petro Poroshenko met with former President Donald Trump in the Oval Office in June 2017.
- Zelenskyy met Trump on the sidelines of the UN summit in New York in September 2019 following the controversial “do us a favor” phone call, which led to Donald Trump’s first impeachment. “Thank you for invitation to Washington (…) You invited me (…), but you forgot to tell me the date” – joked Zelenskyy.
- Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Washington on Monday afternoon with his wife Olena Zelenska.
- On Tuesday he met with Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
- Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian First Lady also paid tribute to victims of the Ukrainian Famine-Genocide of 1932–1933 at the Holodomor Memorial located near the U.S. Capitol building. Earlier today they visited the Arlington National Cemetery and took part in the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
- Zelenskyy visited the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Who is Volodymyr Zelenskyy?
43-years old Volodymyr Zelenskyy was born in Kryvyy Rih in central Ukraine. He grew up as a native Russian speaker but he is also fluent in Ukrainian and English.
Zelenskyy received a law degree from Kyiv National Economic University but decided to pursue a career as an actor, comedian, script writer and producer. The office of the President of Ukraine’s lists on its website numerous Zelenskyy’s achievements in the entertainment industry, including 30 awards of the National Television Award of Ukraine “Teletriumph”.
In 2015 Zelenskyy played a role of a schoolteacher who was elected president in a popular television series “Servant of the People.”
Three years later the political party Servant of the People was created and he successfully run for President of Ukraine, easily unseating the incumbent President Petro Poroshenko.
On 20 May, 2019 Zelenskyy was sworn in as the 6th President of Ukraine.
On the today’s agenda
Announcing Zelenskyy’s visit, the White House said that the meeting with President Biden will affirm “The United States’ unwavering support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity in the face of Russia’s ongoing aggression”. The WH Press Secretary’s statement mentions cooperation on energy security, tackling corruption and implementing reforms agenda based on democratic values.
- Military assistance
Since 2014 the U.S. has provided Ukraine with $2,5 billion in security assistance. Ahead of Zelensky’s visit President Biden’s approved a new $60 million package, that include portable Javelin anti-armor systems.
On Tuesday at the Pentagon, number of agreements on defense partnership have been signed between the U.S. and Ukraine, including the Strategic Defense Framework.
- Energy security
Earlier this year President Biden waived sanctions against company overseeing the Nord Stream 2 pipeline essentially letting the project to continue. This decision was met with widespread criticism in Ukraine and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
The U.S. and Germany announced later an agreement to mitigate potential attempts by Russia to use energy as a weapon. In response, Ukraine and Poland released a joint statement saying that the steps were insufficient to effectively limit the threats created by NS2. Before Zelensky’s trip to Washington a group Ukrainian lawmakers, civil society activists and experts called NS2 “a corrupt scheme” and urged the U.S. to change the course.
After Tuesday’s meeting with Secretary Granholm Zelenskyy noted that he saw support of the US Department of Energy in the issue of Nord Stream 2 and proposed regular consultations between Ukraine, Germany and the U.S. to preserve gas transit through Ukraine. “The common approaches of Ukraine and the United States to the risks posed by this project were stated” – says a statement from the Office of the President of Ukraine. Zelenskyy praised cooperation with the U.S. in the nuclear energy sector. “We see that there will be a comprehensive investment in Ukraine’s nuclear energy. This is the first important step. We were looking for an investment. We have support now,” he said.
- NATO membership
Last week in an interview with The Washington Post and other media outlets Zelenskyy expressed frustration with Western allies’ hesitancy to speed up Ukraine’s accession to NATO. However, a former diplomat and Brookings expert Steven Pifer warned, that in order to make his visit to Washington successful, the Ukrainian President needed to bring reasonable expectations. Pifer noted that NATO members remain reluctant to put Ukraine on a membership track when it’s being engaged in a low-intensity war with Russia, and suggested that Kyiv should focus on practical steps to prepare for progress when a window of opportunity opens. After his visit to Pentagon on Tuesday Zelenskyy noted that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin expressed support for Ukraine’s aspirations for NATO membership.