US President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in the Oval Office of the White House, Sept 1, 2021, in Washington. (EVAN VUCCI/AP)
WASHINGTON - US President Joe Biden told Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday the United States was "firmly committed" to Ukraine's territorial integrity and offered Kyiv US$60 million in new security aid.
"Today we're going to discuss how the US can continue to support Ukraine as it advances its democratic reforms agenda," Biden said at a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart in the Oval Office.
The new US$60 million security assistance package for Ukraine would include Javelin anti-armor systems and other "defensive lethal and nonlethal capabilities," a senior Biden administration official said before the visit.
The two leaders, at their first face-to-face meeting since Biden took office in January, also had the Nord Stream 2 pipeline on their agenda, a project Ukraine fears could be used by Russia as a geopolitical weapon.
"Today we're going to discuss how the US can continue to support Ukraine as it advances its democratic reforms agenda," Biden said at a meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart in the Oval Office
Zelenskiy raised his concerns about the pipeline in his opening remarks and said he would seek to hear Biden's vision of Ukraine's chances for joining the NATO military alliance and a time frame for such a move.
Zelenskiy told reporters in June he wanted a clear "yes" or "no" from Biden on giving Ukraine a plan to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. He has urged NATO members to accelerate Ukraine's entry after a standoff with Russia this year in which Moscow massed additional troops and military equipment near Ukraine's borders.
NATO allies believe Ukraine needs to adopt more political reforms before gaining membership. White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki underscored that Ukraine needed to modernize its defense sector and advance rule-of-law reforms in order to meet NATO membership standards.
Zelenskiy told reporters after the meeting that no time frame on NATO emerged from the discussions, but said of Biden: "I feel that the president personally, and not only feel - I heard this - the president personally supports Ukraine regarding the granting of NATO membership."
Zelenskiy's White House visit came after he played an unwitting and high-profile role in the process that led to former president Donald Trump's first impeachment.
Trump, a Republican who lost the 2020 presidential election to Democrat Biden, had pressed the new Ukrainian leader in a 2019 phone call to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter, who had served as a director of a Ukrainian energy company. News of the phone call and related actions sparked an effort to remove Trump from office.
Asked if Biden expected to address that in the meeting, Psaki said simply: "No."
The two countries said in a joint statement after the meeting that they both oppose the Nord Stream 2 project and "support efforts to increase capacity for gas supplies to Ukraine from diversified sources."
The US Department of Energy said on Tuesday that officials from both countries had signed a letter of intent to cooperate on energy and climate change.
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