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Biden’s New Ukrainian Calculus

President Biden
Photo by Chen Mengtong/Getty Images
Julia Ioffe
April 27, 2022

On Saturday, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky announced that the U.S. Secretaries of State and Defense, Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin would be visiting Kyiv on Sunday, when the Eastern Orthodox world celebrated Easter. Not only did he blow the surprise, which the administration didn’t seem to love for security reasons, he also added a bit of a barb to his announcement. “You can’t come to us empty-handed today,” he said. “We are expecting not just presents or some kind of cakes, we are expecting specific things and specific weapons.” 

It was a hell of a thing to say just two days after President Joe Biden announced another $800 million of military aid to Ukraine, bringing the total American military aid package to $3.4 billion in just two months. It reminded me of what Zelensky advisor Serhiy Leshchenko told me in an interview recently. Despite all that aid, in Javelins and now anti-aircraft artillery, he said, “I think that, with time, pro-American sentiment in Ukraine will really ebb. Because of everything America hasn’t done for Ukraine.” Others have told me the same thing. “The general public sentiment in Ukraine is one of betrayal and abandonment by the West,” one D.C. foreign policy insider, who is a Republican, said. “Everyone in Washington is doing high fives, but in Ukraine, the attitude is: No, you’re nickel and diming us because you’re afraid of escalating with Russia.”