Volodymyr Zelensky visits Washington to shore up US support

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Bakhmout (Ukraine), December 20, 2022.

This is a spectacular way to mark the 300e day of war in his country. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was expected in Washington, Wednesday, December 21, for a visit kept secret until the last moment, and confirmed overnight by a press release from the White House. The leader is making his first trip abroad since the start of the Russian aggression on February 24, which originally aimed to remove him from power and take kyiv after a lightning operation. This trip is therefore, in itself, a demonstration of the total failure of the Kremlin.

Volodymyr Zelensky is to meet with his American counterpart Joe Biden at the White House before addressing Congress in joint session in the evening. The Ukrainian leader should thank parliamentarians for their political and financial support and urge them to continue this effort.

The two presidents spoke by telephone on December 11. The White House issued a formal invitation three days later. The formalization took place on December 18, but the preparation for the visit remained confidential until Tuesday evening in Washington.

Read also: War in Ukraine, live: most of the fighting is concentrated in the east of the country

A little earlier, the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, had reminded elected officials in writing of the importance of their presence on Capitol Hill starting Wednesday, announcing, that evening, a nebulous event focused on ” the democracy “, without details. On Tuesday evening, a senior administration official confirmed to the press the visit of the Ukrainian president by providing some details. Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky were to meet again at the White House in the afternoon, surrounded by their closest advisers. The two heads of state must have a “in-depth strategic discussion”both on the evolution of the fighting on the ground, the needs of the Ukrainian army, Western support in all its forms and on the sanctions decided against Russia.

Symbolic, political and military importance

Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky have been in contact countless times over the past nine months, by screen or telephone. They had previously met at the White House on the 1is September 2021, while the attention of the American administration was still focused on the chaotic and controversial withdrawal from Afghanistan. Since the start of the war, on the other hand, this is a first tete-a-tete between the two presidents, Joe Biden having not traveled to kyiv, unlike most Western leaders. This trip by Mr. Zelensky to Washington is not devoid of risks, from a security point of view. But its symbolic, political and military importance is obvious as Ukraine prepares to enter a second year of conflict.

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