February 8, 2023

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Biden and Zelenskyy present a united front against Russia

Later, when a reporter from Ukraine asked Mr. Biden why he didn’t just give Mr. Zelenskyy all the guns he wanted, Mr. Biden quipped, “His answer is yes,” and pointed to the Ukrainian president.

“I agree!” Mr. Zelensky responded quickly in English, which made the audience laugh.

The White House visit comes as both sides prepare for months of fighting. In Russia, officials warned that shipments of new US weapons would “lead to a worsening of the conflict” and Mr Putin promised his government would provide “anything the army asks for – anything” in its quest for conquest.

“President Zelenskyy’s visit here serves at least in part, perhaps primarily, to bolster that support and rekindle enthusiasm for Ukraine’s success,” said William B. Taylor Jr., who served as ambassador to Ukraine from 2006-2009. “All this is necessary for the Ukrainians to forestall a Russian offensive.”

“The timing is perfect,” he said.

For Mr. Biden, the highly orchestrated visit is an opportunity to remind Americans why he committed the United States Treasury Department – if not its soldiers – to defending the borders of a country a continent away. It is crucial, he argues, to stand up for the rights of sovereign nations when international law is violated.

That decision has not come without sacrifice and political cost for Mr. Biden, who correctly predicted before the war began that Americans would suffer economic consequences as the effects of Europe’s first war in decades spread across the world. Gas and food prices rose, helping to push up inflation in the United States and elsewhere.

Having rallied dozens of nations to resist the Russian invasion, Mr. Biden has had to hold this coalition together for longer than anyone in the White House imagined at the start of the war. And he faces a concerted attempt by Mr. Putin to break the alliance by cutting back on energy resources and attacking civilian areas in Ukraine.

“The most important part of this visit may be to challenge Putin’s belief that time is on his side in war,” said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Putin cannot win on the battlefield, so he is trying to break the will of the Ukrainian people by his attacks on civilian areas, and he is trying to break the will of Europe by refusing energy.”