Aviva Fried with AFP
8:16 a.m., December 21, 2022
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has not left his country since the invasion by Russia on February 24, will be received on Wednesday at the White House by Joe Biden before addressing the United States Congress, during an already historic visit . This visit underscores that the United States will support theUkraine “as long as it takes,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, spokesperson for the US executive, in a statement formalizing the event.
This trip, which will be accompanied by the announcement of new American aid described as “significant” to Ukraine, including in particular a Patriot anti-aircraft system, sounds like a challenge to Vladimir Putin.
A date that marks the 300 days of the war
On Wednesday, a date which the Americans say marks 300 days since the start of the war, the Russian president is indeed convening a major military meeting. Vladimir Putin, after having admitted on Tuesday an “extremely difficult” situation in the four regions of southern and eastern Ukraine whose annexation Moscow claims, wants to draw the conclusions of the past year and set the objectives of his army for 2023.
On September 1, 2021, Volodymyr Zelensky had already been received in the Oval Office by Joe Biden, who had already promised to support him against Russia. Wednesday, the same two men, the same place but a completely different historical scale: it is their first meeting in the flesh since Russia invaded Ukraine, making Volodymyr Zelensky a warlord known to the whole world , and Joe Biden the commander-in-chief of the Western response to Russia.
During this trip with incredible security constraints and which will only last “a few short hours”, the Ukrainian head of state will first have a meeting with the American president and his teams at the White House, before a press conference, detailed a senior official of the American executive during an interview with journalists.
According to this source, who requested anonymity, the American executive will unveil for the occasion a new component of aid of “nearly 2 billion dollars” to Ukraine, including a Patriot surface-to-air missile system. The announcement of the shipment of this jewel of American military technology, long demanded by kyiv, should not fail to make Russia react.
A new envelope of support for Ukraine
Then the Ukrainian president will address the full Congress, that is to say the House of Representatives and the Senate. US parliamentarians are preparing to vote on a new massive package of support for Ukraine, of nearly 45 billion dollars.
They will hear Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech when Congress will partially switch to the side of the Republican opposition in January, which raises some questions about the future Ukrainian policy of the United States.
The senior American official indicated that the visit had been mentioned on December 11 during a phone call between the two heads of state, and that it had been confirmed on Sunday. During a trip to the front on Tuesday, in the city of Bakhmout (east), the Ukrainian president had in a way already lifted the veil: receiving a flag from the hands of fighters, he had declared: “We will give to the US Congress, to the US President. We are grateful for their support but it is not enough.”
The United States, by far the largest donors to kyiv, has already provided, according to expert estimates, nearly 50 billion dollars in aid to the country at war, including 20 billion in arms and military assistance.
Meeting around Putin
Vladimir Putin, therefore, intends to take stock on Wednesday with some 15,000 military officials, by videoconference. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu will notably report on “the progress of the special military operation”. After a series of Russian military reverses in northeastern and southern Ukraine, the bulk of the fighting is currently concentrated in the east.
Russia has been massively bombing Ukrainian infrastructure since October, causing power and water cuts. The delivery of a Patriot surface-to-air missile system is intended to respond to these “barbaric attacks”, said the White House official. However, he said that the Ukrainian army would have to be trained in the handling of this sophisticated machine, which will be done “in a third country” and “will take some time.”