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MOSCOW – Nervous by the brutal and chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to raise questions about US security commitments during his meeting with President Biden on Wednesday, an adviser said of the Ukrainian leader.

The meeting was meant to be an opportunity for the United States to show support for Ukraine, something Zelensky has been seeking since 2019, when his efforts became entangled in former President Trump’s first impeachment trial.

Now that the meeting is finally near, it follows an event that has caused many U.S. allies to question the firmness of Washington’s support. And few countries depend as much on American support as Ukraine, mired in a seven-year war with Russian-backed separatists and still afraid of the Kremlin’s intentions and criminal acts.

As vice president, Biden was the Obama administration’s contact person for Ukraine and, though frequently frustrated by its rampant corruption, he firmly supported the country’s struggle to remain independent from Russia. Analysts widely expect him to affirm this support for Mr Zelensky.

For his part, the Ukrainian leader should stress not only the value of US support for Ukraine, but also his country’s contributions to European security by containing Russia, said another member of the Ukrainian delegation.

“The situation in Afghanistan seems to indicate a realignment of the United States’ global commitments, and President Zelensky wants to hear from President Biden where Ukraine fits,” Andrew Mac, Mr. Zelensky’s advisor, said at the meeting. a telephone interview from Washington.

The chaotic withdrawal has shaken nations as large as Taiwan and Germany and groups as small as counterterrorism units in Iraq and Kurdish militias in eastern Syria, where US troops are currently present but without any commitment. long-term.

Ukraine presents itself as a sort of security market for the United States. No American soldier is fighting alongside the Ukrainian army against the Russian-backed separatists in the east of the country. And US financial assistance to the Ukrainian military is far less than that provided to Afghanistan.

“We are very different from Afghanistan, and we would like to stress this,” said Tymofiy Mylovanov, advisor to Zelensky’s chief of staff. “We are an independent country, not a failed state, and our army has succeeded in resisting the Russians, not the Taliban. “

The tone would be that Ukraine “has no doubts about your commitment to us at all,” Mylovanov said. “We won’t be able to ask. We’ll say, ‘This is what we can do together. Let’s do it. ‘”

Ukrainian leaders have worried for months about the Biden administration’s moderate responses to what they see as a deterioration in security in Eastern Europe.

Last spring, Russia deployed tanks and thousands of troops to Ukraine’s borders, apparently for exercises. Also in the spring, the Biden administration complied with Germany’s demands to allow Russia to complete a gas pipeline, called Nord Stream 2, bypassing Ukraine, putting the country at risk of power cuts.

And in less than two weeks, Russia and Belarus are expected to sign a treaty on closer integration that could position Russian troops on Ukraine’s northwest borders.

If that happens, Ukraine will be almost surrounded by Russian-controlled borders, from Belarus in the north to Russia itself and south to occupied Crimea and the breakaway region of Transnistria in Moldova. Some Ukrainian analysts see a developing crisis played down by the United States, much like the vulnerability of the US-backed Afghan government.

“Ukraine is the largest liberal democracy in the former Soviet Union,” Mac said. “The security situation in Ukraine has worsened over the past year. The hope is that the Biden administration will not treat Ukraine as a peripheral issue.

Ukraine has applied for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, but this seems to be irrelevant for fear of provoking Russia.

When asked earlier this year if Ukraine would be admitted, Mr Biden replied “school is out”. Ukraine is now called the Enhanced Opportunity Partner, a status that does not include any guarantees.

Russian officials were quick to taunt Ukraine over the Afghan debacle. “Has the fact that Afghanistan has the status of the United States’ main ally outside of NATO saved the ousted pro-American regime in Kabul?” said Nikolai Patrushev, the secretary of the Russian Security Council. “A similar situation awaits those who bet on America in Ukraine.”

He suggested that Ukraine “will disintegrate and the White House at some point will not even remember its supporters in Kiev.”

The question of America’s reliability and commitment to its allies was widely debated in political circles in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, after the fall of Kabul.

“There is a sense of disengagement from the Western world,” said Volodymyr Yermolenko, editor-in-chief of Ukraine World. America has withdrawn from the Middle East and “it is feared that it will also leave Eastern Europe”.

Volodymyr Ariev, Member of the Ukrainian Parliament, said the concern was overblown.

“I think Washington should provide an explanation to its closest partners, with more assurances that the situation in Afghanistan has no implications for them,” he said. For now, he said, Kiev shouldn’t be worried. “We must not fail in the trust we place in our partners. “

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