KIEV, Ukraine – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stood beside Ukraine’s president on Friday and promised that the United States would “not waver” in its support for the country as it battles Russian-backed separatists in its eastern region.
“Today I’m here with a clear message: The United States sees that the Ukrainian struggle for freedom, democracy and prosperity is a valiant one,” he said. “Our commitment to support it will not waver.”
The message from Pompeo came as the Senate continued its impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on the basis that the president conditioned U.S. military and diplomatic support for Ukraine on an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden.
Pompeo, in his most direct remarks since the allegations emerged last fall, denied that the Trump administration set such an investigation as a condition for a White House meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. But he could not offer a date when the two countries would arrange an Oval Office sit-down between Trump and Zelensky.
“President Zelensky will be welcome to come to Washington when we have the opportunity to do good things for the American people and the Ukrainian people,” Pompeo said. “We’ll find the right time.”
Ukrainian officials have desperately sought a White House meeting with Trump since Zelensky, a former comedian with no political experience, won the presidency in spring 2019.
On Friday, he reiterated that interest. “I would be ready to go tomorrow,” he said.
While the lack of a specific date is likely to disappoint Zelensky, the young leader won a long-sought and high-profile show of support from the top U.S. diplomat, who called Ukraine a “bulwark between freedom and authoritarianism in Eastern Europe.”
The White House sought to use the visit to dispel Democratic criticism that it exploited Ukraine for political gain and to affirm that the U.S.-Ukraine relationship remains strong. Zelensky provided a boost for that defense, expressing his gratitude for U.S. support and emphasizing that it remained steady throughout the impeachment process.
“I don’t think these friendly and warm relations have been influenced by the impeachment trial of the president,” said Zelensky.