The Ukrainian leader has allegedly harbored “resentment” from the 2021 meeting for the “humiliation” he suffered, The Guardian reports
US President Joe Biden and his Ukrainian counterpart, Vladimir Zelensky, apparently got off on the wrong foot when they first met in the White House back in 2021, The Guardian reported on Wednesday, citing an upcoming book by journalist Franklin Foer. Washington was left bewildered by Kiev’s demands for swift NATO accession, while Zelensky felt “humiliated,” the paper said.
The two presidents seemingly failed to form a good relationship when the Ukrainian leader first visited America in September 2021, some five months before the conflict between Moscow and Kiev broke out. At the time, Ukraine’s assessment of its NATO prospects was viewed as “absurd” in Washington, The Guardian reported, citing ‘The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden’s White House and the Struggle for America’s Future’, which is scheduled to hit shelves next week.
“Even Zelensky’s most ardent sympathizers in the [Biden] administration agreed that he had bombed,” Foer wrote. The Ukrainian leader, in turn, reportedly harbored “lingering resentments from the episode” and seemingly blamed Biden personally “for the humiliation he suffered, for the political awkwardness he endured.”
The US president “didn’t think much of his Ukrainian counterpart,” referring to Zelensky as a “slapstick comedian,” according to Foer. He noted that Biden had also been “deeply involved in Ukrainian politics longer than Zelensky” due to his role in US-Ukrainian relations under former president Barack Obama.
Biden expected “gratitude” from Ukraine for his support, but Zelensky “crammed his conversations with a long list of demands,” Foer wrote, adding that NATO had become a particularly contentious topic for the two presidents.
Zelensky supposedly initially demanded his nation be accepted into the bloc, but Biden rejected the idea, citing a lack of support among NATO members. The response reportedly prompted Zelensky to lash out and declare the US-led organization obsolete.
“After begging to join NATO, he began to lecture that the organization is, in fact, a historic relic with waning significance. He told Biden that France and Germany were going to exit NATO,” Foer wrote. “It was an absurd analysis and a blatant contradiction. And it pissed Biden off.”
Kiev’s ambition to swiftly join NATO has been weighing on Ukraine’s relations with its Western backers for quite some time. The latest flare-up broke out at the NATO summit in Vilnius in July, when Zelensky lashed out at the bloc over its “indecisiveness,” calling the lack of a roadmap towards accession “unprecedented and absurd.”
His comments reportedly infuriated Washington, with British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace also saying he would like to see some “gratitude” from Kiev for what Western nations had already done for it.