Ukraine and the Biden presidency

Ukraine and the Biden presidency

Ukraine and the Biden presidency

President Joe Biden invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to join him at the White House following his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday.

The offer was intended to be a lifeline for Ukraine as it battles Russian aggression.


In an interview with Axios for HBO, Zelensky expressed dissatisfaction with Biden’s decision to abandon efforts to stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, a Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline that would allow the Kremlin to bypass Ukraine.

Currently, Russian gas passes via Ukraine on its way to Europe, but this will change with the new pipeline, depriving Ukraine of valuable transit payments.

‘In the hands of the Russian Federation, this is a weapon, a genuine weapon,’ Zelensky added.


Biden requested Zelensky to meet with him at the White House this summer when the president returns from his European tour and meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

‘President Biden was able to assure President Zelensky that he will continue to stand firm in support of sovereignty, territorial integrity, and ambitions.’ And he also informed him that when he goes to Washington this summer, he would be welcomed at the White House,’ Sullivan added.

Biden’s decision to exclude the German business that operates the pipeline comes as he tries to repair ties with a major ally that were strained during Trump’s presidency.

Zelensky acknowledged the dynamic, but expressed concern about its impact on his country.
‘How many lives have been lost in Ukraine as a result of the US-German relationship?’ In his interview, Zelensky posed the question.

He said that Biden might still prevent the German pipeline from being built.


‘It will be a real pity, not simply for me, if this is not the case,’ he remarked. ‘There will be a perception that, in these conditions, Russia has a strong chance of defeating the US.’


Biden’s move was slammed by Republicans.

‘First, Joe Biden waived sanctions on Putin’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and now he’s meeting with Putin while ignoring Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.’ Senator Ted Cruz of Texas stated on Twitter before the White House announced the meeting with Zelensky, “It’s like Biden is intentionally attempting to indicate weakness about Russia’s aggressiveness and coercion.”

Biden departs for his first overseas trip as president on Wednesday. It includes a visit in the United Kingdom for talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the G7 summit, and a visit with The Queen in Windsor. The president will next go to Brussels for a NATO summit as well as the EU Summit. He’ll end his tour with a meeting with Putin in Geneva.

The coronavirus epidemic, the global economy, the threat of cyber hackers, the climate, and ties with Russia and China will all be on the president’s agenda.

‘We think that when President Biden comes to Washington next week, we will be in a much stronger position to deal with the big risks and challenges that this COVID context presents, including as China, cyber, and Russia,’ Sullivan added.

According to Sullivan, the US is “clarifying what our expectations are and pointing out that if certain sorts of destructive behaviors continue to occur, there will be repercussions from the US.”

He backed Biden’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
‘A meeting with the Russian president is not an award for us.’ We see it as a critical component of safeguarding America’s interests,’ he explained.
Biden’s first stop on the nine-day tour will be a meet with US soldiers in the United Kingdom. On Wednesday, he and first wife Jill Biden will pay a visit to US Air Force members and their families at Royal Air Force Mildenhall. The Royal Air Force (RAF) Mildenhall is home to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, the only permanent air refueling unit in the United Kingdom.

Next week, President Joe Biden will go to Europe for seven days. Here’s what we’ve got thus far:

Visit US Air Force servicemen and their families at Royal Air Force Mildenhall on June 9th.


10 June: Meeting with Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.


Attending the G7 Summit in Cornwall from June 11 to 13.


He and Dr. Jill Biden met with the Queen at Windsor Castle on June 13th.


The NATO Summit will be held in Brussels on June 14th.


The United States and the European Union will meet in Brussels on June 15th.


Meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on June 16th.


Due to the coronavirus outbreak, Biden has avoided international travel, but he is making up for it with this trip.


Jill Biden, the First Lady of the United States, will accompany him to the British port.

The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall are expected to meet the American couple on their tour to the United Kingdom.
Biden would ‘confirm the ongoing strength of the unique relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom’ at his meeting with Johnson on Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said last week.
Since Biden’s election as president, the two have spoken on the phone several times.

When questioned about the meeting, Psaki said in her White House press briefing on Thursday, “There are a range of items of common interest.” ‘From the world’s future economic development to combating the COVID epidemic to security, issues around the world so they have a range of topics they can clearly discuss.’

Johnson will also persuade President Obama to exclude vaccinated British and American travelers from quarantine rules in order to make travel between the two countries easier.

As the summer vacation season approaches, the PM wants to create a ‘green channel’ for people who are completely vaccinated, according to The Times.
On Monday, Sullivan refused to specify when the travel restrictions would be lifted.
‘This is a process that is being led by science and public health recommendations, so it is ultimately up to the public health specialists in the US government to make that conclusion,’ he explained.
‘We have heard loud and clear from our European and British friends that they want to be allowed to travel over the Atlantic again.’

And it’s something we’d want to see happen. But we have to follow the research and the advice of our public health specialists, so we’re actively working with them to identify a timeline. I can’t give him a timetable today, but I can assure you that we appreciate the issue and are essentially led by objective analysis,’ he said.

Biden will join the G7 conference after his meeting with Johnson, where he will conduct bilateral sessions with fellow G7 leaders. Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union are all members of the G7.

The president will speak about transatlantic security and Europe’s collective defense there.

He’ll also meet with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president.


While in Brussels, Biden will also attend the US–EU Summit. The focus of the summit was on global health and the global economy. Climate change, commerce, and democracy will be discussed by the leaders.


President Biden will also meet with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and His Majesty King Philippe of Belgium.


Then, on June 16, Biden heads to Geneva for his meeting with Putin. He’ll also meet with Guy Parmelin, the Swiss President, and Ignazio Cassis, the Swiss Foreign Minister.




According to Steven Pifer, the Biden administration would bring more high-level but tough US backing, which is excellent news for Ukraine and those who want to see it evolve into a modern European state. The Stanford International Policy Review published this essay first.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky congratulated Joe Biden’s victory as US president in a December 2020 interview with the New York Times. Biden “knows Ukraine better than the former president,” according to Zelensky, and “will genuinely help develop relations, help solve the Donbas war, and stop the occupation of our region.”

While Zelensky’s optimism may be exaggerated, there is no reason to doubt that Biden’s administration will be beneficial to Ukraine. The new president is familiar with the nation, and he recognizes the importance of a stable and prosperous Ukraine for US interests in Europe, as well as the threats presented by Russia to Ukraine and the West. That could—not will, but could—help break the impasse in the Donbas conflict, which Zelensky, of course, would appreciate. Biden’s willingness to play hardball in pressuring Kyiv to embrace necessary but politically tough reform and anti-corruption measures may be less acceptable to the Ukrainian president. The viability of Ukraine as a liberal democracy is contingent on not just on ending its conflict with Russia but also on combating corruption and advancing still necessary economic reforms.


In some ways, the Trump administration’s attitude toward Ukraine has its advantages. It continued to give diplomatic and military support to Kyiv, including deadly military aid, which the Obama administration had refused to offer. Sanctions against Russia relating to Ukraine were maintained and tightened. It also took moves to strengthen the military posture of the US and NATO in central European countries along Ukraine’s western border.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, never looked fully dedicated to his administration’s policies. His main interaction with Ukraine was his attempt to blackmail Kyiv into fabricating negative material against his Democratic opponent, which resulted in his impeachment.

Beyond that, Trump showed no interest in Ukraine and declined to condemn Vladimir Putin, who has waged a low-intensity war on the nation for more than six years.

This schism in Washington’s approach to Kyiv will be resolved during Biden’s administration. On policy, the president and his administration will agree. Because of this increased predictability, Ukrainian authorities will no longer have to fear about late-night presidential tweets or the president’s personal political vendettas subjugating US policy objectives.


Ukraine has two major difficulties when Biden takes office. The first is the dispute with Russia. Russian armed troops captured Crimea in March 2014, following the Maidan Revolution. Russian security forces staged a fight in Donbas a few weeks later, misrepresenting it as a “separatist” rebellion. The Kremlin supplied leadership, finance, heavy weaponry, ammunition, and other supplies, as well as regular Russian army soldiers as needed. That violence, now in its ninth year, has cost the lives of almost 13,000 people.

Moscow has not moved to annex Donbas despite unlawfully annexing Crimea. Instead, it appears to seek to utilize a smoldering war in eastern Ukraine to put pressure on, destabilize, and confuse the Kyiv administration, making it more difficult for the government to construct a viable Ukrainian state and come closer to Europe. (To preserve a Russian sphere of influence, Moscow has intervened abroad in the post-Soviet environment.)

Without the Kremlin’s help, Kyiv will be unable to manage the crisis in Donbas on its own, and Crimea would be far more difficult. Meeting the second of Ukraine’s issues, on the other hand, is a different story.

—the execution of reforms and anti-corruption measures required to develop a fair, strong, and rising economy—is primarily in Kyiv’s control. Regrettably, following a promising start by Zelensky and his first cabinet, reforms have stalled, oligarchs continue to wield disproportionate political and economic power (even within Zelensky’s Servant of the People party), and the judicial system remains untouched. This discourages much-needed investment in the nation, among other factors.


The Biden administration might very possibly play a more active role in the stalled Donbass negotiations.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron, as co-chairs of the “Normandy process,” have had limited success in implementing the 2015 Minsk accord, which laid out a route to a solution and full restoration of Ukrainian sovereignty over Donbas. Unfortunately, it appears that the Kremlin believes that the benefits of distracting Kyiv presently outweigh the disadvantages, which includes Western sanctions.

A more active US engagement, according to Zelensky, might change that calculation and inject impetus into the process. At the very least, the Biden administration should appoint a special envoy to coordinate Western support for Ukraine and sanctions on Russia with the Germans and French, as well as the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, and others. Since September 2019, that job has been vacant.

It’s a separate matter if Biden, who will be pressed for time, will choose to participate directly. He is familiar with Ukraine, having visited it six times while serving as vice president. Moreover, unlike Trump,

Biden, who has a history of seeking rapid successes, recognizes that resolving a problem like Donbas would need a persistent investment of his time. If it became evident that his involvement would shake things up in a way that would boost the chances of a settlement and the restoration of Donbas to Ukrainian sovereignty, that would make sense.

The Kremlin may not embrace such cooperation at first look, but there are compelling justifications for it. First and foremost, the United States is Ukraine’s most ardent Western ally, and Washington’s influence in Kyiv is substantial.

Second, Russia’s present fight with Ukraine is about more than Donbas; it’s also about Ukraine’s place in Europe, or where it sits between Russia and organizations like the European Union and NATO. That question will need diplomatic dexterity. Given the importance of the trans-Atlantic alliance, which will be rekindled under Biden’s leadership, it’s impossible to see such a global debate taking place without American participation.

In the case of Crimea, Ukraine now lacks the political, diplomatic, economic, and military clout necessary to secure the peninsula’s return.

Nonetheless, the US government understands non-recognition policy. In the case of the Baltic nations’ integration into the Soviet Union, it did so for five decades. The Biden administration will continue to defend Kyiv’s claim to Crimea and refuse to acknowledge Russia’s acquisition of the peninsula, as would the White House.


Zelensky wavered in 2020 after a promising start on change. He needs to do more, and Biden can assist, though perhaps not in the way the Ukrainian president would choose.

Zelensky appears to have lost his path, which is a large part of the problem. “Rather than attacking oligarchs, [Zelensky] opted to peacefully cohabit with them,” said Ruslan Ryaboshapka, his reformist first prosecutor general. Biden might be the type of friend Ukraine needs right now: supportive but honest with Zelensky about what has to be done, and willing to push him to take politically difficult steps he would rather avoid.

Biden has previously demonstrated that he is capable of doing so. He was in charge of US engagement with Ukraine as Vice President in the Obama administration. When necessary, he used “tough love,” notably delaying a one-billion-dollar loan guarantee until then–President Petro Poroshenko fired a prosecutor general who was viewed widely, inside and outside of Ukraine, as corrupt.

With Kyiv, a dose of harsh love appears to be required. One question involves Ukraine’s access to low-interest loans under the International Monetary Fund’s stand-by arrangement. The IMF is pinning the allocation of those credits on Ukraine’s ability to follow through on reform pledges made in order to achieve the deal. The Biden administration should, and very surely will, join the IMF in insisting that Ukraine fulfill its obligations before receiving more funds.

Similarly, the Biden administration should condition greater bilateral US assistance on Ukraine implementing certain reforms.

It should do so in close consultation and coordination with the European Union, which has more aid resources. Adding more conditionality to Western aid programs might help put more pressure on Kyiv’s leadership to implement changes that are in the country’s long-term interests but are opposed by significant oligarchs or political groupings that stand to lose if such changes are implemented.

Prioritize judicial reform, particularly at the Constitutional Court, which has a core of judges who appear to be devoted to special interests. Earlier regulations mandating members of parliament and government employees to provide information were overturned by the high court.

The Biden administration can help Ukraine at home by enacting a prohibition on anonymous shell corporations and mandating disclosure of who really creates corporations in the US, as required by the Corporate Transparency Act, which is part of the National Defense Authorization Act. It will be increasingly difficult for corrupt Ukrainians to hide ill-gotten profits in US assets as a result of this.

The election of Biden as President is fantastic news for Ukraine and those who want to see it evolve into a modern European country. It will entail additional high-level but tough backing from the United States. This might result in further reform progress in the country. And, with a little luck and some creative diplomacy, it may even help break the logjam  with Russia over resolving the fate of Donbas.