September 3, 2021

Zelenskyy visits Washington


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy met with U.S. President Joe Biden in the Oval Office on September 1. As soon as that meeting ended, Ukrainians around the world wanted to know whether Mr. Zelenskyy had done enough to convince Mr. Biden that the United States should do more to help Ukraine gain entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, fend off the looming threat of further Russian aggression by providing more concrete military aid and stop construction of the Nord Stream 2 by punishing the pipeline’s builders with strong sanctions.  Speaking the day before his meeting with Mr. Biden, Mr. Zelenskyy was clear in what he hoped to achieve during his visit.

“We want support not only in words,” the Ukrainian president said.

While some of the details of Mr. Zelenskyy’s various meetings in the United States have already been made public, it will take more time before we’re able to learn the extent to which the Ukrainian president’s trip to the United States was a success.  What we know so far is that the United States has agreed to increase military aid to Ukraine by $60 million, which brings the total amount of U.S. aid for Ukraine up to $400 million this year.

While the U.S. is already touting the additional assistance to Ukraine as a sign of its renewed commitment to helping Kyiv, according to a report in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, “some U.S. analysts have called for hundreds of millions of dollars, even as much as $1 billion, in military aid, saying that would send a strong signal to the Kremlin.”

Nevertheless, Moscow reacted to the news by saying that they believe the increased military assistance would embolden Ukraine to escalate the ongoing conflict with Russia and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that “we believe this could potentially cause unpredictable actions by the Ukrainian side in terms of attempting to resolve the … Ukrainian conflict … by force.  This is very dangerous.  Simply put, we’re talking about a Ukrainian-American friendship that is directed against Russia.  This can only cause regret.”

We certainly believe that more must be done to help Ukraine, as Mr. Zelenskyy currently faces a truly daunting task of both trying to protect the country from the very real possibility of further Russian aggression against Ukraine, while also making significant headway in the fight to dramatically reduce corruption in the country.  By all accounts, Ukraine has no chance of gaining entry into NATO if it does not demonstrate that it has done the latter.  And its best chance to ensure its sovereignty and territorial integrity is to become a full-fledged member of NATO.  The celebrations of Ukraine’s 30th anniversary of independence will continue through the beginning of December.  And while most Ukrainians will rightly continue to celebrate for the rest of this year, Mr. Zelenskyy, having completed his much-desired Oval Office meeting, must now turn his attention to tackling corruption in Ukraine.  The fate of the country rests on this single issue.