President Biden predicted Monday that Ukraine is “very likely” to join the European Union — but added that he probably won’t visit the war-torn country anytime soon to show support.
“I think that’s very likely to happen,” Biden told reporters in Delaware about the possibility of EU membership for Kyiv after the European Commission, the bloc’s executive branch, voted Friday to make Ukraine an EU candidate.
However, when asked whether he’s planning to visit Ukraine, Biden replied “that depends” on “a lot of things relating to whether or not it causes more difficulty for the Ukrainians, whether it distracts from what’s going on.”
Biden went on to note that “I have been meeting with [Ukrainian President Volodymyr] Zelensky – I talk to him three, four times a week.”
Biden then said that he’s “not likely” to visit Ukraine as part of upcoming trips to Germany, Spain, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
If Biden accurately described the frequency of his calls with Zelensky, it would mean that the White House has not been issuing readouts for most of them. The most recent White House readout was on June 15. Before that, both leaders joined a G-7 conference call on May 8.
It’s unclear how long it would take for Ukraine to join the EU. The powerful economic union could help lift Ukraine from its enduring post-Soviet poverty. As of 2020, Ukraine’s annual per capita GDP was about $3,700 — far below the EU’s average of more than $34,000.
EU candidate status can last for years. For example, North Macedonia has been a candidate since 2005 and Montenegro has been a candidate since 2010. Turkey has been a candidate since 1999 and it’s unclear if it ever will be admitted.
Zelensky applied for EU membership four days after the Russian invasion began in February and requested a fast-tracked process.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Friday that the body recommended Ukraine for candidate status because “we want them to live with us the European dream” and “Ukrainians are ready to die for the European perspective.”
Last week, Zelensky hosted the leaders of other major NATO countries for a tour of war-torn Kyiv and held a press conference on Thursday with French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
On Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kyiv for the second time since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24. Johnson previously met with Zelensky in April in a show of solidarity after Ukraine’s forces fought off a Russian invasion of Kyiv.
Also, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited in May and the presidents of Estonia, Poland, Latvia and Lithuania made the journey by train on April 13. The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovenia visited Kyiv on March 15 despite heavy bombardment of the city.
Zelensky has called on Biden to visit his country as well.
“I think he will. I mean, it’s his decision, of course,” Zelensky said in April. “And about the safety situation, it depends. I mean that. But I think he’s the leader of the United States, and that’s why he should come here to see.”
One notable American dignitary did get through to see Zelensky on Monday: Actor Ben Stiller.
In late April, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ukraine to meet with Zelensky.
In May, first lady Jill Biden made an unannounced Mother’s Day visit to western Ukraine, where she met with Zelesnky’s wife.
During a March visit to neighboring Poland, Biden blamed unidentified subordinates for keeping him from making a trip to Ukraine.
“I’m here in Poland to see firsthand the humanitarian crisis and quite frankly, part of my disappointment is that I can’t see it firsthand like I have in other places,” Biden said March 25.
“They will not let me, understandably, I guess, cross the border and take a look at what’s going on in Ukraine,” the president went on.