Sun. Jun 23rd, 2024

Biden and Zelenskyy to meet amid tensions over pace of U.S. military aid

By 37ci3 Jun6,2024

“This is a familiar pattern that we see over and over again. It’s usually, ‘No, No, Maybe, Yes,”’ said John Herbst, a retired career diplomat and former US ambassador to Ukraine.

Ukraine and its supporters say the long debates and delays have cost lives and hampered Ukraine’s progress on the battlefield.

From Zelensky’s point of view, the US is squeezing him and there is “real, real frustration,” said a former US official with knowledge of the matter.

In recent interviews, Zelensky has sounded confused and angry at the scale and scope of US and Western military aid, asking why his country does not have more Patriot missile defense systems to protect civilians and the country’s power grid from constant air attack.

“Can we have seven?” he told the New York Times, referring to what he called the minimum number of Patriot systems needed. “Do you think this is too much for the NATO anniversary summit in Washington? – he asked. “For a country fighting for freedom and democracy in the world today?”

U.S. officials say Washington is Ukraine’s largest source of military aid, and the administration must consider geopolitical risks and is prepared to shift its position if necessary.

One congressional aide said the administration’s approach has created frustration not only in Kiev but on both sides of the aisle in Congress.

“At every stage of the war, from February 2022 until now, the administration has been slow to respond to Ukrainian requests for everything from ammunition to tanks to longer-range missiles,” said a congressional aide.

“In every case, so far, after a month or two or three months, the administration has changed its mind and granted what the Ukrainians wanted. But in any case, they did it too late and often with too little,” the aide said.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, Republican chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the Biden administration should have lifted restrictions on Ukraine. The use of American-made weapons long before conditions worsened.

“This decision should have been made before, not after, the latest Russian attack in Kharkiv. “Instead, the continued handwriting of the Biden administration has crippled Ukraine’s response, forcing them to stand idly by and watch Russian forces prepare for an imminent attack across its border,” McCaul and Turner said in a joint statement.

Biden’s decision not to attend an international peace summit hosted by Ukraine later this month has further increased the strain on the partnership. More than 80 countries will participate in the summit. Russia was not invited and China will not participate.

“I believe that the peace summit needs President Biden, and other leaders need President Biden, because they will look at the reaction of the United States,” Zelensky said at his last press conference in Brussels.

Biden’s absence “will only be met with applause from Putin – a personal, standing ovation,” Zelensky said.

According to information from the White House, Vice President Kamala Harris and Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan will participate in the event to be held in Switzerland on June 15. Ukraine had hoped that Biden would be able to proceed with the conference as he would be in Italy a few days earlier. But the president is expected to attend a fundraiser in Los Angeles that weekend, which will be attended by George Clooney and other Hollywood guests.

Crack over corruption and reforms

The issue of corruption in Ukraine has repeatedly caused disagreements, US diplomats and officials have demanded decisive steps from Zelensky’s government. Current and former officials said that Ukrainian officials were particularly irritated by US Ambassador Bridget Brink over the issue.

From Ukraine’s point of view, Zelensky has made significant progress in the fight against corruption, in funding the special prosecutor’s office and the anti-corruption court. Some Ukrainian officials, according to sources close to the government, say the US ambassador is creating unnecessary tension and losing sight of the main priority – winning on the battlefield.

The Biden administration has called for further reforms, transparency and accountability as necessary steps for Ukraine to join the European Union as well as NATO.

A US official acknowledged tensions with Ukraine over Washington’s anti-corruption efforts. But the official said the latest shakeup at Kiev’s top anti-corruption agency is an example of the continuing need for reform. It is reported that he is number two in the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine has been suspended After a leak within the agency last month disrupted a high-profile investigation into a road construction project involving government money.

The US official said that while Ambassador Brink has borne the brunt of the Ukrainian government’s frustration, his focus on reforms and anti-corruption measures in Kyiv has the full support and backing of both Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the president.

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By 37ci3

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