✪ President Joe Biden plans to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, in his latest effort to show solidarity with Ukraine after the Russian invasion.
The president’s public schedule remains empty, but reports noted Tuesday that Zelensky would travel to Washington, DC, and appear in person on Capitol Hill to lobby for continued support for his country. (UPDATE: Zelensky himself confirmed the news of his trip on Wednesday at 1:00 a.m. EST. The White House confirmed plans for Biden and Zelensky to meet and participate in a press conference on Wednesday afternoon.)
Zelensky will not leave Washington, DC, without a warm welcome from Biden, as reports detail plans for the Ukrainian president to visit the White House.
The president has taken pride in his unfailing support for Ukraine after Russia invaded, rallying American allies to their cause. “The idea that Putin is ever going to defeat Ukraine is beyond comprehension,” Biden said earlier in December after meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron to discuss the ongoing conflict.
Biden is eager to announce his decision to provide Patriot missile systems to Ukraine, according to reports, to bolster their defense against Russia, an announcement that is likely to solidify America’s support.
Ukraine has been calling for the US to send the advanced long-range air defense system that is highly effective at intercepting ballistic and cruise missiles as it comes under a barrage of Russian missile and drone attacks that have destroyed key infrastructure across the country.
A Patriot missile battery would be the most effective long-range defensive weapons system sent to the country and officials say it will help secure airspace for NATO nations in eastern Europe. CNN first reported last week that the US was planning to send Patriot systems to Ukraine.
It is not clear how many missile launchers will be sent but a typical Patriot battery includes a radar set that detects and tracks targets, computers, power generating equipment, an engagement control station and up to eight launchers, each holding four ready-to-fire missiles.
Once the plans are finalized, the Patriots are expected to ship quickly in the coming days and Ukrainians will be trained to use them at a US Army base in Grafenwoehr, Germany, officials said.
Ukraine has been asking for the system for months but the logistical challenges of delivering it and operating it are immense. Despite those obstacles, “the reality of what is going on the ground” led the administration to make the decision, the senior administration official told CNN, noting the continuing intense Russian missile barrages.
Unlike smaller air defense systems, Patriot missile batteries need much larger crews, requiring dozens of personnel to properly operate them. The training for Patriot missile batteries normally takes multiple months, a process the United States will now carry out under the pressure of near-daily aerial attacks from Russia.
Plans are underway for Zelensky to address Congress on Wednesday night, although they are not confirmed due to security reasons.
Congress is already working on providing an additional $45 billion in military and economic aid for Ukraine in the massive $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill currently making its way through Congress.
The additional spending is on top of the existing $66 billion already approved by Congress for Ukraine and its defense.
News of funding for a proposed Ukrainian Independence Park in Washington, DC, also emerged after members of Congress released the text of the massive spending package. ✪