Two years after his infamous phone call with Trump, Zelensky comes to Washington

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More than two years after taking part in one of the most infamous phone calls in American political history, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky comes to the White House to meet the man Donald Trump urged him to target with bogus investigations in the hope of overthrowing the 2020 Election.

Zelensky, who has served as Ukraine’s head of state since May 20, 2019, arrived in Washington on Monday and spent most of Tuesday attending what a senior administration official described as meetings with Cabinet officials on issues relating to the US-Ukraine strategy. Partnership.

The meetings, the official said, would result in “new agreements on security, energy and climate cooperation” and “set the stage” for Wednesday’s meeting with President Joe Biden.

The official said Biden was “prepared to discuss the full range of political issues that underline the bilateral relationship” between Ukraine and the United States, a relationship in which the president has played a key role since his departure. time as a vice president during the Obama administration.

It was, in fact, Mr. Biden’s predecessor that Mr. Zelensky hoped to meet when he picked up the phone on July 25, 2019. Ukraine has been waging a shooting war with Russia since 2014, when Russian soldiers invaded the country. Crimean region of the country and began to support the anti-government. separatists from Donbass, and Zelensky, who had sworn in as president only two months earlier, sought the visible commitment of support embodied in an invitation to the White House.

Trump interrupts Ukrainian President Zelensky at press conference over phone call: “You know there was no pressure”

But Mr. Trump had other ideas. His personal lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, and then US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland had pressured Zelensky’s aides to have the new president announces investigations into baseless conspiracy theory that Ukraine – not Russia – interfered in 2016 election, along with Mr Biden and his son Hunter, a lawyer who had served on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma.

According to whistleblower complaint which led to Mr. Trump first impeachment by the Democratic-led House of RepresentativesMr. Giuliani – which operated as an unauthorized secondary channel at Mr. Trump’s request – conditioned a possible visit to the White House by Mr. Zelensky on the latter’s announcement of the fictitious investigations. Mr Sondland later told the House Intelligence Committee that there was an explicit “quid pro quo” on the table.

In a telephone interview with Mr Trump, Mr Zelensky raised the issue of Ukraine’s purchase of Javelin anti-tank missiles (a key weapon in his country’s fight against Russian forces). Mr. Trump then replied, “I would like you to do us a favor,” and asked him to examine a baseless conspiracy theory for the 2016 election before advising Mr. Zelensky to speak with Mr. Giuliani and then Attorney General William Barr about his potential opponent in the election of 2020.

“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son, that Biden stopped the prosecution, and a lot of people want to know that, so anything you can do with the attorney general would be great,” Mr. Trump said, referring to another baseless plot. theory that Mr Biden ordered Mr Zelensky’s predecessor, Petro Poroshenko, to fire then-attorney general Viktor Shokin to prevent investigations into his son if he wanted the country to benefit from $ 1 billion dollars of US loan guarantees. Although Mr. Biden asked Mr. Poroshenko to sack Mr. Shokin, he did so at the request of the Obama administration and a significant number of American allies.

Giuliani has become one of Trump’s biggest supporters despite his initial reservations

(Reuters)

Dissatisfied with Mr. Zelensky’s response, Mr. Trump ordered the Office of Management and Budget to withhold $ 391 million in military assistance funds intended to aid Ukraine’s defense against Russia shortly thereafter. the call ended, and Mr. Zelensky never received that invitation from the White House.

In contrast, his successor’s relationship with Mr. Zelensky was relatively straightforward. In the opinion of the Biden administration, relations with Kiev have received “a lot of high-level attention”, with the two leaders speaking on the phone twice since Mr. Biden’s inauguration: once in April, and again in June, especially before its summit. with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Secretary of State Antony Blinken also traveled to Kiev in May to meet Mr. Zelensky, one of his first bilateral meetings with a foreign leader, and Energy Secretary Jenifer Granholm visited the Ukrainian capital last week as a representative of the Biden administration at the Crimean Platform conference.

A senior administration official who briefed reporters on Wednesday’s agenda said Zelensky’s visit to the White House would bolster those efforts to demonstrate support for his government and “build and amplify the sustained engagement of President Biden and the administration over the past eight months or so of the administration ”.

Among the topics discussed by Mr. Biden and Mr. Zelensky were their countries’ efforts to “strengthen collaboration on shared energy and climate goals, including through a reinvigorated strategic dialogue on energy and climate” aimed at to “advance energy security objectives, strengthen economic ties and achieve ambitious climate goals”, as well as “the expansion of economic collaboration and … the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and other shared priorities”.

Giuliani on the Biden-Ukraine conspiracy theory

The two leaders will also announce plans to “reinvigorate and revitalize” the US-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Commission, which has not met since late 2018.

On the issue of Mr. Trump’s attempt to arm himself in his infamous appeal with Mr. Zelensky – United States security cooperation and security assistance – the official said they “s’ expect President Biden to convey his unwavering commitment to Ukraine’s security, sovereignty and Euro-Atlantic aspirations. ” and that Mr. Biden “looks forward to a more comprehensive update from President Zelensky on the current security situation.”

And while there will be at least one elephant in the room in the form of Zelensky Chief of Staff Andriy Yermak, who was Mr. Giuliani’s main point of contact during Trumpworld’s push to force Mr. Zelensky to sack Mr. Biden’s ultimately successful campaign against Mr. Trump, the Biden administration is unwilling to revisit the past.

Asked about Yermak’s presence at Wednesday’s meeting, the official declined to answer the question directly but responded diplomatically, telling reporters: “We are very much looking forward to working with the Zelensky team.”

But if Mr Zelensky feels the need to ask for more Javelin anti-tank missiles, it is likely that he will be more than satisfied with Mr Biden’s response than that of his predecessor.

Not only will Pentagon officials adhere to a new US-Ukrainian defense framework that White House officials say will “strengthen our cooperation on a range of pressing issues, including Black Sea security, cyber-sharing and intelligence, as well as continued support to Ukraine. as he faces continued Russian aggression, ”but more aid is on its way to Kiev from Washington.

Last week, the White House informed Congress that the Biden administration intended to supplement the $ 400 million in security assistance provided to Kiev this year with an additional $ 60 million that Mr. Biden will announce his approval on Wednesday alongside Mr Zelensky.

Javelins are included.


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