President Joe Biden on Monday invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to visit him at the White House after his summit with Vladimir Putin.
The offer was meant to be a boon to the Ukraine as it struggles to fend offer Russian aggression.
Zelensky, in an interview with Axios for HBO, expressed disappointment that Biden decided to stop trying to block the Nord Stream 2, a Russia-to-Germany natural gas pipeline, that would allow the Kremlin to by pass the Ukraine.
Biden says he will invite Ukrainian president Zelensky to the White House after his Putin summit https://t.co/dwrbMGNRt1— Daily Mail Online (@MailOnline) June 8, 2021
Currently, Russian gas currently flows through Ukraine en route to Europe but the new pipeline would change that, depriving the Ukraine of lucrative transit fees.
'This is a weapon, a real weapon ... in the hands of the Russian Federation,' Zelensky said.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said Biden invited Zelensky to meet with him at the White House this summer after the president returns from his European trip and his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
'President Biden was able to tell President Zelensky that he will stand firmly, raising sovereignty, territorial integrity, and aspirations. And he also told him ... he will welcome him to the White House here in Washington this summer after he returns,' Sullivan said.
Biden's decision to spare the German company operating the pipeline comes as he looks to mend relations with a key ally that were unsettled during the Trump administration.
Zelensky said he understood that dynamic but worried about the affect on his country.
'How many Ukrainian lives does the relationship between the United States and Germany cost?' Zelensky asked in his interview.
He argued Biden could still stop the German pipeline.
'If this is not the case, that will be a great pity, not only for me,' he said. 'There will be a feeling that in these circumstances Russia will have a great chance to prevail over the United States.'
Republicans were critical of Biden's decision.
'First Joe Biden waives sanctions on Putin's Nord Stream 2 pipeline, now he is meeting with Putin but snubbing the Ukrainian President. It's like Biden is actively trying to signal weakness regarding Russia's aggression and coercion,' Senator Ted Cruz of Texas wrote on Twitter before the White House announced the sit down with Zelensky.
Biden leaves Wednesday for his first international trip as president. It includes a stop in the UK for a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the G7 summit and a meeting at Windsor with The Queen. Then the president heads to Brussels for a NATO meeting and the EU Summit. He'll cap off the journey with a sit down in Geneva with Putin.
On the president's agenda will be the coronavirus pandemic, the global economy, the threat from cyber hackers, the climate, and relations with Russia and China.
'When President Biden returns to Washington next week we believe that we will be in a material stronger position to manage the major threats and challenges this COVID climate, China, cyber, Russia,' Sullivan said.
Biden's sit down with Putin comes amid growing tensions between the two nations. He has taken Russia to task for its interference in US elections; Moscow's aggressive posture toward the Ukraine and the government's treatment of dissent Alexei Navalny.
The United States is 'clarifying what our expectations are and laying out that if certain kinds of harmful activities continue to occur, there will be responses from the United States,' Sullivan said.
He defended Biden's sit down with his Russian counterpart.
'We do not regard a meeting with the Russian president as an award. We regard it as a vital part of defending America's interests,' he said.
Biden first stop on the nine-day trip will be the UK will be a visit with US troops. He and first lady Jill Biden, on Wednesday, will visit US Air Force personnel and their families stationed at Royal Air Force Mildenhall. RAF Mildenhall is home to the 100th Air Refueling Wing, the only permanent U.S. Air Force air refueling wing in the European theater.
Biden held off on foreign travel due to the coronavirus pandemic but is making up for it with this trip.
First lady Jill Biden will join him for the British portion of the trip but will return to the United States after the first couple meets with the Queen at Windsor Castle on Sunday.
Biden will be the 13th American president the Queen has met since ascending to the throne in 1953.
There is speculation that the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will also meet the American couple at some point during their visit to the UK.
At his sit down with Johnson on Thursday, Biden will 'affirm the enduring strength of the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom,' White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement last week.
Biden and Johnson have spoken on the phone multiple times since Biden was elected president.
'There's a range of issues of mutual interest,' Psaki said Thursday at her White House press briefing when asked about the sit down. 'From the future of economic growth in the world to addressing the COVID pandemic to security issues around the world so they have a range of topics they can clearly discuss.'
President Biden has invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to visit the White House later this summer, national security adviser Jake Sullivan has said https://t.co/a9a6p2nFYC— CNN (@CNN) June 7, 2021
Johnson will also ask the American president to exempt vaccinated British and American travellers from quarantine restrictions to facilitate travel between the two nations.
The PM wants to create a 'green channel' for those fully vaccinated, The Times reported, as the summer holiday season approaches.
Sullivan on Monday declined to say when travel restrictions might be eased.
'This is a process being driven by science and public health guidance and so it is ultimately up to the public health professionals in the US government to make that determination,' he said.
'We have heard very clearly, the desire of our friends in Europe and in the UK, to be able to reopen travel across the Atlantic. And we want to see that happen. But we have to follow the science and we have to follow the guidance of our public health professionals so we're actively engaging with them to determine the timeframe, and I can't give him a date today but I will tell you that we recognize the concern and we are fundamentally being guided by objective analysis,' he added.
Afterward the meeting with Johnson, Biden will attend the G7 summit, where he will hold bilateral meetings with fellow G7 leaders. The G7 includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union.
After his meeting with The Queen, Biden will travel to Brussels, Belgium, to participate in in a NATO meeting and an EU Summit.
There, the president will discuss transatlantic security and the collective defense of Europe.
He will also meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Biden also will participate in the U.S.–EU Summit while in Brussels. That meeting with focus on global health and the world economy. Leaders will discuss climate change, trade, and democracy.
President Biden will also meet with His Majesty King Philippe of Belgium and Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.
Then Biden travels to Geneva for his sit down with Putin on June 16. He will also meet with Swiss President Guy Parmelin and Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
© Associated Newspapers Ltd.