The Ukrainian leader reportedly doesn’t see eye to eye with US President Joe Biden on talk of war.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky does not think a Russian invasion of his country is likely in the near future, and has told US President Joe Biden that American warnings of an attack are destabilizing the economy, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.
The New York daily wrote on Wednesday that Washington officials have claimed that during a recent telephone call between the two leaders, when Biden warned that the US believed the threat of an invasion had grown, Zelensky replied that there had been a threat since 2014. Biden reportedly answered that the presence of Russian soldiers in Belarus, where they have been dispatched for joint military drills, could increase the chance of aggression.
According to the newspaper’s sources, the Ukrainian president continues to doubt the likelihood of an imminent invasion, and has expressed fears that the stream of American warnings about Russian aggression have actually made an increased buildup of Russian forces more likely, and have helped to destabilize Ukraine politically and economically.
The report also cites senior Ukrainian officials as saying that they were especially upset with Washington’s recent decision to evacuate diplomats’ families and nonessential staff from its embassy in Kiev, because this gave the impression that the city was likely to be captured soon, as Kabul was last summer.
In January, BuzzFeed reported that a source close to Zelensky had said “Americans are safer in Kiev than they are in Los Angeles… or any other crime-ridden city in the US.” That same month, the Ukrainian president stated that hype over an invasion made negotiations for peace in Donbass, Ukraine’s war-torn eastern region, more difficult.
Western leaders have been warning for months that they fear Russia could be planning an invasion of Ukraine, pointing to reports of a Russian troop buildup on the two countries’ border and in neighboring Belarus. Moscow has repeatedly rejected the accusation, and has called for security agreements that would limit the expansion of NATO, the US-led military bloc, into Ukraine, a deal that the US has said is off the table.
Last week, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told journalists that the American government would no longer use the word “imminent” to describe Russia’s possible invasion, because “it sent a message that we weren’t intending to send, which was that we knew that President Putin had made a decision.”