President Biden lost his temper and raised his voice on the phone with Volodymyr Zelensky when the Ukrainian president continued to press for more aid even after Biden signed off on $1 billion worth of military assistance earlier this year, according to a report Monday.
The phone call in June, one of many between the two leaders, turned testy when Zelensky began listing what else Kyiv needed and wasn’t getting shortly after Biden announced the aid package, NBC News reported.
The commander-in-chief reportedly blew his stack and, with his voice rising, reminded Zelensky of the generosity of the American people, stressing that his administration and the US military were doing all they could to help Ukraine in its war with Russia.
Biden also told Zelensky that he should be more thankful for the aid, according to NBC News, which cited four people familiar with the call.
Another source disputed that the call was heated or angry, saying Biden was direct with Zelensky and said the Ukrainian leader should direct his concerns through the appropriate military channel.
The relationship between Biden and Zelensky improved after the call, with the Ukrainian leader making a conciliatory statement thanking the US for its contribution to the war effort, the report said.
A spokesperson for the National Security Council declined to comment after being contacted by NBC News.
A Zelensky spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment.
The president’s frustrations reportedly had been rising for weeks before the June 15 call, with Biden confiding to aides that he believed his administration was pulling out all stops to help Ukraine, but that Zelensky continued to focus on what wasn’t being done.
However, the report noted some Eastern European governments and US politicians were annoyed at the length of time the White House took to approve weapons requests — to the point of dawdling over some of Ukraine’s pleas before giving in weeks or months later as pressure mounted.
Zelensky’s advisers worked to resolve any lingering tensions after the June call, deciding that it wouldn’t be useful to be at odds with Biden.
“I had an important conversation with US President Biden today,” Zelensky said in videotaped remarks the day of the conversation. “I am grateful for this support. It is especially important for our defense in Donbas.”
Biden in a statement noted that he had informed Zelensky of the $1 billion in aid and assured him that the US “will not waver in our commitment to the Ukrainian people as they fight for their freedom.”
The US has provided about $20 billion in aid to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February.