Biden and Zelensky announce new agreements during White House meeting

September 21, 2023

During a bilateral meeting Thursday at the White House with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Biden said “there’s no alternative” but to provide Ukraine with the aid it needs to defeat Russia. 

His statement came in answer to a question from a reporter about whether Congress—which is currently wrangling over providing more funding to Ukraine—will provide the additional $24 billion in security, economic and humanitarian aid that Biden’s requesting.

Noting that Ukraine has been at war with Russia for 575 days, Biden said that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “underestimated the consequences of taking on Ukraine.” 

“He also thought he could break the Western alliance, NATO,” said Biden adding that Putin further thought he could “break the will of nations around the world, but many more stood with Ukraine.”

“That’s why 575 days later we stand with Ukraine and we will continue to stand with Ukraine,” Biden stated.

Zelensky then thanked Biden, the Congress and journalists for “sharing the truth about this aggression from Russia.”

While Zelensky said the details of the new funding package would be announced shortly, he noted that it “has exactly what our soldiers need now,” including stronger air defenses which he said would be especially important in the upcoming winter season.  

Further, Zelensky said the U.S. had agreed on “specific steps” to expand exports of grain from Ukraine. 

Russia has been targeting Ukrainian ports after Putin dissolved last year’s Black Sea Grain Initiative that allowed Ukraine to ship grain to other countries, including many suffering from food insecurity. 

The White House was the third leg of Zelensky’s day-long visit to Washington. 

The Ukrainian President began his mission by meeting with bipartisan Congressional leadership on Capitol Hill amid reluctance from some Republican lawmakers to continue to aid Ukraine’s 19-month-long war against Russia.

After their meeting, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) confirmed that he had rejected a request from Zelensky to address a joint meeting of Congress, saying that Congress didn’t “have time” for such an event amid tumultuous negotiations to fund the federal budget and avoid a government shutdown in nine days.

Following Zelensky’s visit to the Capitol, GOP hardliners for a second time this week blocked a vote to forward the bill to cover 2024 defense appropriations spending, with several far-right Republicans protesting further funding for Ukraine. 

Even so, on Thursday afternoon during Zelensky’s visit to the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reaffirmed the desire to help Ukraine in “deterring Russian aggression” now and in the future. The Ukrainian President also laid a wreath at the 9/11 memorial on Pentagon grounds.

PHOTO: Biden with Zelensky at the White House

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