President Joe Biden stood up for the U.S. decision to give a Patriot antimissile system to Ukraine but was cautious about promising other military systems, as he spoke Wednesday at a joint White House news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Zelensky’s visit to Washington, D.C., represents his first trip outside his country since Russia invaded it in February.
“It’s not escalatory. It’s defensive,” Biden said, when asked about how Russia might respond to the Patriot system. “We’d love for them to not have to use it — just stop the attacks.”
The U.S. president also responded to a question about giving Ukraine more capabilities so it can liberate all of its territories sooner rather than later.
Biden said giving Ukraine “material that is fundamentally different than what’s already going there would have a prospect of breaking up NATO and breaking up the European Union and the rest of the world.”
He said allies are “not looking to go to war with Russia, not looking for a third world war.”
In addition, Biden sounded upbeat when asked about whether international support for Ukraine could weaken next year.
“I don’t see any reason to believe there’ll be any lessening of support,” he said.
Ahead of the visit, Zelensky tweeted that he’s making the trip in order to strengthen his Eastern European nation’s defense capabilities, and he also has said that he’s grateful for American support, but it’s not enough.
The U.S. has been preparing to give Ukraine $1.8 billion in military aid — including for the first time a Patriot antimissile system — on top of nearly $45 billion in assistance as part of a year-end spending bill.
Support for Ukraine in Congress isn’t unlimited. Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, who’s aiming to become House speaker in January, said in October that he didn’t want to give Ukraine a “blank check,” and other Republicans have expressed concerns about the aid that has been given already.
“Regardless of changes in the Congress, I believe that there will be bipartisan and bicameral support,” Zelensky said during the joint news conference.
He is scheduled to address a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday night, with the speech slated for 7:30 p.m. Eastern.
See: How to watch Volodymyr Zelensky’s address to Congress
“It’s important for the American people and for the world to hear directly from you, Mr. President, about Ukraine’s fight and the need to continue to stand together through 2023,” Biden said to Zelensky during their news conference.
From MarketWatch’s archives (March 2022): Investor complains about Zelensky wearing a T-shirt before Congress — but leadership expert says other politicians should follow his example
MarketWatch’s Robert Schroeder contributed to this report.