Biden administration official discusses Zelenskyy meeting at White House

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's surprise trip to Washington started with a meeting with President Biden at the White House. Amanda Sloat, the National Security Council's Senior Director for Europe, joined Judy Woodruff to discuss the meeting and what's next for Ukraine.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    We return now to our top story tonight, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's surprise trip to Washington.

    He met earlier today with President Biden at the White House.

    And for more on their meeting, we're joined by Amanda Sloat. She is the National Security Council senior director for Europe.

    Amanda Sloat, hello. Welcome back to the "NewsHour."

    So, we know some of this trip was certainly symbolic to thank the president, to thank the American people. But we also know it was about talking to the president and others about needing more help.

    How would you split up the purpose of it?

  • Amanda Sloat, Senior Director For Europe, U.S. National Security Council:

    I think it certainly did both of those things.

    President Biden spoke to this in the press conference, saying that nothing beats face-to-face interaction with fellow leaders. President Zelenskyy, of course, was here in Washington last September. The two presidents have had a number of phone calls throughout the course of the war. But this was the first time for them to be able to speak face to face.

    And I think it was really important for President Zelenskyy to be able to check in with President Biden to discuss the progress that his forces have made on the battlefield, to discuss the security assistance that the United States has been providing and how that has been helping Ukrainian forces, and then to talk about the way forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    We just spoke a few minutes ago on the program with two analysts, who talked about what they understand to be what the Ukrainians are asking for, both more air defense help and more offensive capability.

    And how would you break that down? I mean, what are they asking for? And what is the administration prepared to consider?

  • Amanda Sloat:

    I think President Zelenskyy's main message in the meeting to President Biden, and I think his message in Congress tonight, was of one of appreciation for all of the support that had been given.

    As President Zelenskyy made clear in the press conference, he sees this victory as very much a joint one with his forces on the ground and the security assistance from the United States. We have been focused throughout this conflict on ensuring that the security assistance we provide meets the needs of the Ukrainian forces on the ground as the war evolves.

    And, certainly, as Russia has stepped up its brutal attacks on Ukraine's critical infrastructure, air defense has become ever more important. So, this is a capability that we have been working to give the Ukrainians. And today's announcement by the president of a Patriot battery certainly is a big component of that, as well as a renewed commitment to continue engaging our allies and partners to provide that.

    The nearly $2 billion security assistance package announced today also includes more ammunition and artillery. So, today's package was a step toward addressing their needs, both on the defensive side, as well as on the artillery and ammunition side as well.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, the Patriot systems certainly do address their needs on the — what they say are their needs on the defensive side.

    How much further, though, is the administration prepared to go? At one point today, President Biden spoke — at that news conference, spoke about providing longer-range weaponry risks breaking up NATO. To what extent is that a concern for the White House?

  • Amanda Sloat:

    So, we have continued to adjust the security assistance that we have provided to meet the needs on the ground.

    If you remember back 300 days ago, when this war started, it was Russian tanks that were rolling towards Kyiv. And, at that point, providing anti-tank and anti-armor systems was what the Ukrainians needed. And that was what we provided. And, certainly, the war has continued to evolve.

    Part of the security assistance package that we provided today included new capabilities, including these aerial precision munitions, which does give the Ukrainians an additional tool in their arsenal, which is going to help them on the battlefield.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Is it fair to say, Amanda Sloat, that there are ongoing conversations, though, about beefing that up, about doing more for the Ukrainians as they think about wanting to strike deeper into the Russian front?

  • Amanda Sloat:

    I — so far, we have seen the Ukrainians make very good use of the capabilities that we have been giving them, including these HIMARS and GMLRS systems and munitions.

    And we committed in today's security assistance package to give them more of that. But, certainly, as we have throughout the conflict, we will continue very active conversations with the Ukrainians as the situation on the field evolves.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    So it sounds like, at this point, the administration is not prepared to say what might be possible down the road?

    Because it's pretty clear that Ukrainians are asking for more as time goes by.

  • Amanda Sloat:

    You know, today, we announced one of our biggest security assistance packages to date, continuing to work with Congress as they finalize the supplemental budget, which will hopefully continue to give us the security assistance funds that we need to go into the year.

    We will continue providing the Ukrainians with the assistance that they need on the battlefields. And we will continue to remain in close touch with their military, as we have been, as the situation evolves, their needs evolves, and the counteroffensives continue into the winter and then the following months.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    To what extent is President Biden, is the administration concerned about support at some point weakening for the war that Ukraine is waging against Russia?

    It's now been almost a year. It will be in February. How deep are American — frankly, American pockets to continue to support the war?

  • Amanda Sloat:

    President Biden has been clear from the beginning, and he reaffirmed that both privately and publicly to President Zelenskyy, that the United States is going to continue to support and stand with Ukraine as long as it takes.

    I don't want to get ahead of the congressional deliberations, but, certainly, they have been working on a very sizable package of funding that would enable the administration to continue supporting the Ukrainians, in terms of their security assistance needs, as well as their economic needs and humanitarian side.

    So, to date, we continue to have very strong bipartisan support for Ukraine and for their cause. And we remain confident here that that's going to continue.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    As I mentioned, you're the National Security Council senior person for Europe.

    It's clear that the Europeans are not doing as much for Ukraine as the Americans have been. They have certainly provided some support. What kind of conversation is the administration having with Europeans about doing more?

  • Amanda Sloat:

    The Europeans certainly have stepped up to help the Ukrainians.

    It is certainly true that the United States is the biggest provider of security assistance. But there's a large number of countries in Europe and more broadly that have also contributed capabilities to the Ukrainians. The Europeans certainly have borne the brunt of the refugee crisis. Many of them are housing upwards of millions of Ukrainians.

    They have also been a very strong partner in terms of the implementation of sanctions, and, again, with some of their economic impacts, have really borne the economic costs of that, and have continued to do things on the energy front as well.

    We convened a Ukraine Defense Contact Group that meets regularly. And, as part of today's announcement, we will be continuing to encourage our allies and partners, especially on the air defense side, as well as to continue providing them with the artillery the ammunition and other capabilities that they need.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Last thing. I do want to ask you about Vladimir Putin.

    He's given no indication that he's prepared to slow down, that he's just prepared to push and push as long as it takes from his perspective. But do you see — is there any knowledge the administration has, any intelligence that there's some light at the end of this tunnel? Or is it — is it just flat-out conflict as far as the eye can see?

  • Amanda Sloat:

    Certainly, nothing that President Putin has said or done gives any indication that he is prepared to end this conflict anytime soon.

    We are seeing this with continued stepped-up, brutal attacks on civilian infrastructure and Ukraine's energy grid, especially heading into winter. So, we remain committed to supporting Ukraine with the security assistance that it needs.

    And we also support President Zelenskyy's continued public conversation about a just peace and what he sees as the essential principles that would be needed to bring this war to a cause — or to a close in a way that would be just.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, we are going to leave it there.

    Amanda Sloat, who is the National Security Council senior director for Europe, thank you very much for joining us.

  • Amanda Sloat:

    Thank you.

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