President Joe Biden is inviting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the White House — but not until after a summit with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.
The Ukrainian leader had urged a sit-down before the June 16 meeting amid disappointment that Biden had waived sanctions for the construction of the Nord Stream pipeline that would let Russia circumvent Ukraine and deliver natural gas directly to Germany.
But in a phone call Monday, Biden told Zelensky he looks forward to welcoming him to the White House after returning from his trip to Europe, national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters, Axios reported.
"I have come into this briefing room from the Oval Office where President Biden was on the phone with President Zelensky of Ukraine," Sullivan said.
"This is a call they had been planning to make in advance of President Biden going to Europe and meeting with President Putin."
"They had the opportunity to talk at some length about all of the issues in the U.S.-Ukraine relationship and President Biden was able to tell President Zelensky that he will stand up firmly for Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and its aspirations as we go forward," Sullivan continued.
Sullivan reiterated that Biden is meeting with Putin not in spite of the heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia, but because of them.
"There is never any substitute for leader-to-leader engagement, particularly for complex relationships, but with Putin, this is exponentially the case," Sullivan said, noting the Russian strongman's "highly personalized style of decision-making."
He added it’s hard to find a "better context" to hold a summit with Putin than after meetings with G7 leaders and the United States' European and NATO allies.
Ukraine views the pipeline as a national security threat — and "a real weapon" in the hands of Russia.
But Biden has suggested he doesn’t want to damage relations with Germany over a pipeline that will inevitably be completed anyway, Axios reported.
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