An much anticipated new book claims that Volodymyr Zelenskiy “bombed” his first encounter with Joe Biden in the Oval Office, a development that is certain to stir alarm in Washington and Kiev.
The two men apparently were unable to get along because of the Ukrainian president’s insistence on NATO membership and the US president’s “pissed off” reaction to his “absurd analysis” of alliance dynamics.
In his book The Last Politician: Inside Joe Biden’s White House and the Struggle for America’s Future, Franklin Foer describes a meeting that took place in September 2021 and notes that “even Zelenskiy’s most ardent supporters in the [Biden] administration agreed that he had bombed.”
It hinted to forthcoming uncomfortable conversations.
Additionally, Foer talks admiringly of Biden’s leadership of international assistance for Ukraine during the Russian invasion in February 2022, claiming that the US president proved ” a man for his age”.
However, news of Foer’s portrayal of Biden and Zelenskiy’s rocky start may increase rumored White House anxiety over the book as the war in Ukraine continues on and military and financial assistance for Kyiv becomes a contentious issue in Congress and in the Republican presidential primary.
The pullout from Afghanistan in late summer 2021, around the time of Zelenskiy’s first White House visit, was the topic of a lengthy piece published in the Atlantic on Tuesday, the publication for which Foer works.
Foer reports on the Biden-Zelenskiy encounter on September 1 without using actual quotes or citing sources, as he does in other parts of the book. However, according to his publisher Penguin Random House, the book is based on “unparalleled access to the tight inner circle of advisors who have surrounded Biden for decades”.
Zelenskiy had long sought a meeting with the White House after being elected in 2019 and constantly being pressed by Russia. He was rejected by Donald Trump because he declined to assist in the investigation of opponents, including Vice President Joe Biden, which resulted in Trump’s first impeachment.
Zelenskiy allegedly harbored “lingering resentments from the episode” and “at least subconsciously… seemed to blame” Vice President Joe Biden, who will replace Trump in the White House, “for the humiliation he endured, for the political awkwardness he endured,” according to Foer.
According to the author, Zelenskiy believed Biden to be weak, particularly after the latter waived sanctions against a Russian business earlier in 2021 that was constructing the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Germany, a decision that Zelenskiy said jeopardized Ukrainian economic and security interests.
Zelenskiy requested a meeting with Biden, who “didn’t think much” of him, according to Foer, especially given the Ukrainian president’s cordial relationship with hard-right Texas senator Ted Cruz over the Nord Stream decision.
Cruz obstructed the confirmation of State Department nominations out of protest.
Whether he realized it or not, Zelenskiy participated in this prank, according to Foer. It smelled like amateurism, according to the administration. Fair enough, Biden too had low opinions of his Ukrainian colleague.
Zelenskiy was a slapstick comedian prior to entering politics, according to Foer, who also notes that Biden frequently showed instant appreciation for these politicians because he recognized himself in them.
Prior to their meeting in the Oval Office on September 1, Biden and Zelenskiy made statements to reporters in which they expressed respect for one another and their shared goals for policy. Zelenskiy, though, “seemed oblivious to Biden’s doubts” and “almost wilfully unaware of Biden’s moral code” after the meeting got underway, according to Foer.
According to Foer, Biden anticipated expressions of gratitude for US assistance. With a broad list of demands, Zelenskiy “crammed his conversations.” The most important one was “He needed to join NATO.”
Then, Biden was 78 years old. Zelenskiy, 43, was. According to Foer, the older guy “tried to pass along some wisdom that might temper the younger man’s zeal,” adding that there was not then enough support for Ukraine to join Nato.
Since 2014, Russia has been inflaming the conflict in Ukraine and it is commonly believed that they are planning an invasion.
Zelenskiy’s frustration obscured his capacity for rationality, according to Foer. He pleaded with them to join NATO and then started lecturing them on how useless and worthless Nato is. He informed Biden that Germany and France will be leaving NATO.