Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had a lot to gain from an alleged deal with United States President Donald Trump, including a visit to the White House, according to a key witness at the impeachment hearings.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent said the benefits of a quid pro quo would be instrumental for Zelenskiy’s leadership.
“New leaders, particularly countries that are trying to have good footing in the international arena, see a meeting with the U.S. president in the Oval Office at the White House as the ultimate sign of an endorsement and support from the United States,” Kent said during an impeachment hearing on Wednesday.
According to Kent, the possibility of a White House meeting was held “contingent to an announcement” about former vice-president Joe Biden — a potential political opponent of Trump’s in the 2020 presidential election. Whether or not the U.S. president attempted to barter this exchange is still under investigation.
Zelenskiy was recently elected on April 21 with over 70 per cent of the vote. His government was formed after parliamentary elections in July.
“It would primarily boost his leverage to negotiate with Vladimir Putin about the Russian occupation of seven per cent of Ukrainian territory,” said Kent.
Since 2014, the United States has provided nearly $1.5 billion worth of military aid to Ukraine to help them fight off Russia, which invaded the country in August of that year. But by 2019, the Trump administration had not delivered nearly $400 million in military aid — including weapons, training and advisers — that Congress had previously approved for Ukraine’s continued efforts.
The contingencies of the quid pro quo first became known following a phone call between the two leaders on July 25, when Trump asked Zelenskiy to investigate Biden in exchange for the aid and promised him a White House meeting.
During the impeachment inquiry, Kent said it was not of national interest nor in the interest of the United States to promote the rule of law in Ukraine.
“Our policies, particularly in promoting the rule of law, are designed to help countries in eastern Europe and central Europe that (are) overcoming the legacy of communism,” he said.