President Joe Biden on Monday invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to visit him at the White House after his summit with Vladimir Putin.
The offer was meant to be a boon to Ukraine as it struggles to fend off Russian aggression.
Zelensky, in an interview with Axios for HBO, expressed disappointment that Biden decided to stop trying to block the Nord Stream 2, a natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, which would allow the Kremlin to pass through Ukraine.
Currently, Russian gas is currently flowing through Ukraine on its way to Europe, but the new pipeline would change that, eliminating the need for Ukraine to pay lucrative transit fees.
“This is a weapon, a real weapon… in the hands of the Russian Federation,” Zelensky said.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden has invited Zelensky to a meeting this summer at the White House after the president returns from his European trip and his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“President Biden could tell President Zelensky that he will stand firm and raise sovereignty, territorial integrity and aspirations. And he also told him… that after his return this summer, he will welcome him to the White House here in Washington,” Sullivan said.
President Biden invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to meet with him this summer at the White House following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin
President Biden will meet with Putin in Geneva next week as part of his nine-day trip to Europe
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said President Biden’s meeting with Vladimir Putin was not a reward for the Russian president
Biden’s decision to spare the German company that operates the pipeline comes as he seeks to restore relations with a key ally that was unsettled during the Trump administration.
Zelensky said he understood those dynamics but was concerned about the implications for his country.
“How many Ukrainian lives is the relationship between the United States and Germany costing?” Zelensky asked in his interview.
He claimed Biden could still stop the German pipeline.
“If this isn’t the case, that’s a real shame, not just for me,” he said. “There will be a sense that under these circumstances Russia will have a great chance of triumphing over the United States.”
Republicans were critical of Biden’s decision.
“First Joe Biden waives sanctions on Putin’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, now he has a meeting with Putin but rejects the Ukrainian president. It’s like Biden is actively trying to signal weakness regarding Russia’s aggression and coercion,” Texas Senator Ted Cruz wrote on Twitter before the White House announced it would sit down with Zelensky.
Biden leaves on Wednesday for his first international trip as president. It includes a stop in the UK to meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the G7 summit and a meeting in Windsor with The Queen. Then the president goes to Brussels for a NATO meeting and the EU summit. He concludes the trip with a visit to Geneva with Putin.
On the president’s agenda are the coronavirus pandemic, the global economy, the threat from cyberhackers, the climate and relations with Russia and China.
“When President Biden returns to Washington next week, we believe we will be in a substantially stronger position to manage the major threats and challenges of this COVID climate, China, cyber, Russia,” Sullivan said.
Biden sits down with Putin amid mounting tensions between the two nations. He has held Russia accountable for its meddling in the US elections; Moscow’s aggressive stance towards Ukraine and the government’s treatment of dissent, Alexei Navalny.
The United States “clarifies our expectations and explains that if certain types of harmful activity continue to occur, there will be responses from the United States,” Sullivan said.
He defended Bidens sitting with his Russian counterpart.
“We do not consider a meeting with the Russian president as a reward. We consider it an essential part of defending American interests,” he said.
Biden’s first stop on the nine-day journey is the UK will be visiting US troops. He and First Lady Jill Biden will visit U.S. Air Force personnel and their families based at Royal Air Force Mildenhall on Wednesday. RAF Mildenhall is home to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, the United States Air Force’s only permanent air refueling wing in the European theater.
Schedule for President Biden’s Europe Tour
President Joe Biden will take a seven-day trip to Europe next week. This is the itinerary so far:
June 9: Visit to United States Air Force personnel and their families stationed at Royal Air Force Mildenhall
June 10: Meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
June 11-13: Attend the G7 Summit in Cornwall
June 13: He and Dr. Jill Biden Meet the Queen at Windsor Castle
June 14: NATO summit in Brussels
June 15: US-EU summit in Brussels
June 16: Meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva
Biden has postponed overseas travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, but is making up for it with this trip.
First lady Jill Biden will join him for the British leg of the trip, but will return to the United States after the first couple met the Queen at Windsor Castle on Sunday.
Biden becomes the 13th U.S. president to meet the Queen since he took the throne in 1953.
There is speculation that the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will also meet the American couple one day during their visit to the UK.
At his meeting with Johnson on Thursday, Biden will “confirm the lasting strength of the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement last week.
Biden and Johnson have spoken on the phone several times since Biden was elected president.
“There are a number of issues of mutual interest,” Psaki said during her White House press conference on Thursday when asked about the sit-down. “From the future of economic growth in the world to tackling the COVID pandemic to security issues around the world, so they have a range of topics to discuss clearly.”
Johnson will also ask the US president to exempt vaccinated British and US travelers from quarantine restrictions to facilitate travel between the two countries.
Prime Minister wants to create a ‘green channel’ for those who are fully vaccinated, The times reported as the summer holidays approach.
Sullivan declined to say Monday when travel restrictions could be eased.
“This is a process that is driven by science and public health guidelines and so it is ultimately up to the public health professionals in the US government to make that decision,” he said.
“We have very clearly heard the wish from our friends in Europe and in the UK to be able to reopen the voyages across the Atlantic. And we want to see that happen. But we need to follow the science and we need to follow the guidance of our public health professionals, so we are actively talking to them to set the timetable, and I can’t give him a date today, but I will tell you that we recognize the concern we are fundamentally guided by objective analysis,” he added.
After meeting Johnson, Biden will attend the G7 summit, where he will hold bilateral meetings with fellow G7 leaders. The G7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.
After meeting the Queen, Biden travels to Brussels, Belgium, to participate in a NATO meeting and an EU summit.
First lady Jill Biden will join President Biden when he meets the Queen at Windsor Castle on Sunday, June 13
Cornwall’s Carbis Bay Hotel ‘still looks like a construction site’ with just weeks before it hosts G7 summit
There the president will discuss the transatlantic security and collective defense of Europe.
He will also meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Biden will also attend the US-EU summit in Brussels. That meeting with a focus on global health and the global economy. Leaders will talk about climate change, trade and democracy.
President Biden will also meet with His Majesty King Philippe of Belgium and the Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.
Biden then travels to Geneva for his June 16 meeting with Putin. He will also meet with Swiss President Guy Parmelin and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis.