President Biden on Monday invited Ukraine’s president to visit the White House this summer, reaching out to a key Eastern European ally as he prepares for what aides call a “clarifying” showdown next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine, ransomware attacks on the U.S. and other tensions.
Mr. Biden spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky by phone and told him that he will “stand up firmly for Ukraine’s sovereignty” in his meeting with Mr. Putin, said White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
Mr. Zelensky complained last week that he learned through the press — rather than an alert from Washington — that Mr. Biden had decided to stop trying to block a Russian pipeline that Ukraine views as a national security threat. He urged Mr. Biden to meet with him before Mr. Biden’s June 16 summit with Mr. Putin.
Mr. Biden is being criticized for giving Mr. Putin the “reward” of a personal meeting, but Mr. Sullivan said the summit is vital to defending U.S. values.
“We believe that hearing directly from President Putin is the most effective way to understand what Russia intends and plans,” Mr. Sullivan said. “He has a highly personalized style of decision making, and so it is important for President Biden to be able to sit down with him face to face.”
He said it’s not a question of trusting Mr. Putin.
“Taking the measure of another president is not about trusting them,” Mr. Sullivan said. “It’s about a relationship of 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. He will understand fully where the United States stands and what we intend to do.”