by Ted Snider at antiwar.com:
US President Joe Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speak often on the phone. But on a phone call in June, the conversation went very differently.
Biden told Zelensky that he had just authorized $1 billion for more military assistance. Instead of thanking Biden, Zelensky complained about what he wasn’t getting and began listing the additional help he needed. Biden, reportedly, “lost his temper.” “Raising his voice,” Biden told Zelensky to “show a little more gratitude.”
There has been much reporting of “Ukraine fatigue” and of concerns about limitless supply of weapons to Ukraine, but this was the first report of tension in the relationship between Biden and Zelensky.
Administration officials told NBC that “Biden and Zelensky’s relationship has only improved since the June phone call.”
But that may not be entirely true. Two months later, Thomas Friedman reported in The New York Times that “privately, U.S. officials are a lot more concerned about Ukraine’s leadership than they are letting on.” As for Biden’s relationship with Zelensky, in particular, Friedman added that “There is deep mistrust between the White House and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine — considerably more than has been reported.”
As for the trust, in general, between Washington and Kiev, Friedman reports an erosion: “It is as if we don’t want to look too closely under the hood in Kyiv for fear of what corruption or antics we might see, when we have invested so much there.”
There had been hints about that frustration and lack of trust. After long forcing Zelensky not to negotiate with Russia, more than the tone has changed, and the Biden administration has begun pushing Zelensky to negotiate with Russia. There has been frustration with Zelensky’s effective refusal to negotiate. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan has pointed out to Zelensky that “Ukraine’s leverage would be strengthened — not weakened — if it expressed openness to ultimately negotiating with the Russians.” The message is that the perception would be better if it was not Ukraine that was seen to be intransigent and if it was Ukraine, and not Russia, that was seen as wanting to negotiate an end to the war.