Zelensky in the White House: Five things Ukraine wants from the United States

Zelensky and Biden / Photo EPA-EFE/JIM LO SCALZO

What does Kiev want and need from the world's superpower, as it battles Russian forces?

As the war rages at home, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is scheduled to arrive at the White House today. He will meet his American counterpart for talks after visiting the UN headquarters in New York.

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

Biden and Zelensky/ Photo EyePress News / Newscom / Profimedia

1. Security and humanitarian aid

US President Joe Biden is trying to give Ukraine an additional $24 billion in security and humanitarian aid to help push Russia out of its territory.

Yet despite pledging to help Kiev "as much as necessary," his effort is deeply uncertain thanks to a growing political deadlock in Congress over federal spending.

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

"There is a lot of division in America domestically, especially at the government level," says Georgina Taylor, who researches the war in Ukraine at the University of Leeds. "Zelensky will make one last push to try to get that help."

2. Domestic support for American aid

Behind the impasse in Washington is a growing partisan divide, with some "America First" Republicans wanting to cut aid to Ukraine altogether.

"There is a fear on the American side when it comes to sending more money," Taylor told the Euronews, adding that right-wingers are increasingly criticizing the alleged "blank check" handed over to Kiev.

This is something that Ukraine's first man will likely try to address, through meetings with US lawmakers from both sides of the political divide during his trip.

Taylor claims that Zelensky will want to boost support ahead of the 2024 US presidential election, which could see Donald Trump come to power.

The embattled former president - who is currently facing several criminal charges - has not committed to supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia, saying in March that everyone wants "people to stop dying".

A CNN poll last month found that most Americans oppose giving more money to Ukraine, with 55 percent saying the US Congress should not approve additional funding.

Donald Trump / Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits / Getty images / Profimedia

3. Greater confidence in the Ukrainian counteroffensive

Ukraine's progress on the counter-offensive will definitely be a topic of conversation when the two leaders meet, says Georgina Taylor of Leeds University.

"It's a very difficult topic to discuss because there are so many factors, but I think the US would like to see more progress," she told Euronews. "But I don't necessarily think there's going to be a strong push that Kiev needs to make gains on the battlefield, because that's a very bold claim, especially when you're not directly involved in the fighting."

Equipped with billions in Western weapons, Kiev launched its counteroffensive against Russian forces in June. Progress is slow, with stiff resistance from Moscow.

Zelensky could bring to Biden a "more strategic vision" of the war, added Dr Jade McGlynn, a researcher at King's College, pointing to the "striking differences" between Western understandings of the conflict and Ukraine's.

Odessa, Ukraine/ Photo: Nina Liashonok/Ukrinform / Sipa Press / Profimedia

The Ukrainian leader will want to say why Ukraine should win a total victory, which is framed as the complete expulsion of Russian forces from its territory.

"From the point of view of some in the West, the war is increasingly shaping up because there has to be peace, and peace involves compromise," McGlynn suggests, alluding to arguments that Kiev should give Moscow captured land in exchange for a cessation of hostilities.

However, the researcher argued that Ukraine had "fairly recent evidence that appeasement is not working," citing Russia's proxy war in eastern Ukraine that began in 2014.

"The vast majority of Ukrainians do not want to compromise on the territory because of the threat it would pose to the future of Ukraine and their children. "They measure the war in much darker terms than some Western observers might think," he says.

4. More weapons

Another item on the agenda is likely to be weapons, with Ukraine needing more guns and ammunition amid its offensive in the south and east.

"Ukrainians will not necessarily be looking for new weapons." The main point is to get it in time," says McGlynn. "That was the key sticking point because a lot of what was promised was delayed or took too long to get there."

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

Kiev's need for weapons is more urgent as officials – including the Ukrainian president himself – have said the country's counteroffensive will not stop this winter, despite weather conditions making the fight more difficult.

According to some, the months-long hiatus last year gave Russia enough time to prepare its defenses, making Ukraine's campaign more difficult.

5. Membership in NATO

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

However, its ambitious bid was frustrated with the US-led military alliance rejecting Kiev's request for fast-track membership in September 2022.

"Zelensky has consistently pushed for NATO recognition," Taylor says, believing the topic is likely to be a talking point in the White House.

She suggests the rapprochement between Russia and North Korea – with the two countries' leaders meeting last week – could make these "NATO talks more comprehensive".

"We don't know if the conflict will spill beyond the borders of Ukraine." That risk is always there," Taylor told Euronews, although he added: "there were much more immediate things to focus on" when Biden and Zelensky meet.

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

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

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