Zelenskyy at the White House: Five things Ukraine wants from the US

Zelenskyy at the White House: Five things Ukraine wants from the US

As war rages back at home, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is due in the White House on Thursday.

He will meet his US counterpart for talks, hot off the back of a visit to the UN HQ in New York.

But what does Ukraine want - and need - from the US right now? And more importantly, can Washington give it?

1. Secure aid

US President Joe Biden is trying to give Ukraine an extra $24 billion in security and humanitarian aid to help oust Russia from its territory.

Still, despite promising to help Kyiv “as long as it takes”, his attempt is deeply uncertain thanks to a growing political impasse in Congress about federal spending.

Republican lawmakers are pushing for broad budgetary cuts and a government shutdown looms at the end of the month.

“There are a lot of divisions within America’s domestic environment, particularly at the government level,” says Georgina Taylor, who is researching the Ukraine war at Leeds University. “Zelenskyy is going to make one final push to try and get that aid.”

2. Shore up US support

Behind the standoff in Washington lies a growing partisan divide, with some “America First” Republicans wanting to halt aid for Ukraine entirely.

“There is an apprehension on the US side when it comes to sending more money,” Taylor tells Euronews, adding right-wingers were increasingly critical of the supposed “blank cheque” handed to Kyiv.

This is something Ukraine’s number one is likely to try and address, meeting US lawmakers from both sides of the political divide during his trip.

Further afield Taylor claims Zelenskyy will want to shore up support ahead of the US 2024 Presidential Election which could see Donald Trump come to power.

Jose Luis Magana/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Pray Vote Stand Summit, Friday, Sept. 15, 2023. - Jose Luis Magana/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.

The embattled former president - currently facing several criminal charges - has not committed to backing Ukraine in the war against Russia, saying in March that we wanted “everybody to stop dying”.

A CNN poll last month found most Americans oppose giving more money to Ukraine, with 55% saying US Congress should not authorise further funding.

3. Inspire confidence in counteroffensive

Ukraine’s progress in the counteroffensive will definitely come up when the two leaders meet, says Leed University's Georgian Taylor.

“It's a very difficult topic to discuss because there are so many factors… but I do think the US would like to see more progress being made,” she tells Euronews.

“But I don't necessarily think there will be a forceful push that Kyiv needs to make gains on the battlefield… because that's a very bold claim, especially when you are not directly involved in the fighting.”

Equipped with billions in Western arms, Kyiv launched its counteroffensive against Russian forces in June. Progress has been slow, with Moscow mounting stiff resistance.

Zelenskyy may relay to Biden a “more strategic vision” of the war, adds Dr Jade McGlynn a researcher at King’s College, pointing to “striking differences” between Western understandings of the conflict and Ukraine’s.

The Ukrainian leader will want to make the case why Ukraine should win a total victory, which is framed as expelling Russian forces from its territory completely.

“From the point of view of some in the West, the war is increasingly framed as there needs to be peace, and peace involves compromise,” suggests McGlynn, alluding to arguments that Kyiv should give Moscow captured land in exchange for stoping hostilities.

Yet, the researcher claims Ukraine has had “pretty recent evidence that appeasement does not work”, citing Russia’s proxy war in eastern Ukraine that began in 2014.

"The vast majority of Ukrainians don't want to compromise on territory because... of the threat that would pose for the future of Ukraine and their children."

"They measure the war in much darker terms than some Western observers might think."

4. More weapons

Another item on the agenda will likely be weaponry, with Ukraine needing more guns and ammunition amid its grinding offensive in the south and east.

“The Ukrainians won't necessarily be seeking new weapons… The main point is to get them on time,” says McGlynn. “That's been the key sticking point because… an awful lot of what was promised has been delayed...  or it's taken too long to get there.”

Zelenskyy warned world leaders in April that delays in supplying his country with more weapons were costing lives.

Kyiv’s need for weaponry is more pressing as officials - including the Ukrainian president himself – have said the country’s counteroffensive will not pause this winter, despite the weather making it harder to fight.

A months-long pause last year is seen by some as having given Russia ample time to prepare its defences, making Ukraine’s campaign much harder.

5. Push NATO membership

Following the Russian invasion in February 2022, Ukraine renewed its efforts to join NATO.

Its ambitious bid has been frustrated, however, with the US-led military alliance delincing Kyiv’s request for fast-track membership in September 2022.

“Zelenskyy is constantly pushing for NATO recognition,” says Taylor, believing the topic would likely be a talking point in the White House.

She suggests the seeming rapprochement between Russia and North Korea - with the leaders of both countries meeting last week - could make these “NATO conversations more comprehensive.”

“We don't know if the conflict will spill out of Ukraine's borders. That risk is always there,” Taylor tells Euronews, though adds: “there were far more immediate things to focus on” when Biden and Zelenskyy meet.

Some observers see Ukraine’s NATO membership as the best way of ensuring the country’s and Europe’s future peace, with its security umbrella deterring possible Russian aggression.

However, experts told Euronews there are several reasons why Kyiv could not join the alliance, including the risk of a wider war, Kyiv’s lack of preparedness and the potential propaganda victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin.