Dear Volodymyr Letter
November 6, 2019

Well, this is kind of awkward.

President Trump sent a letter to newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on May 29 inviting him to the White House at "a mutually convenient time" and promising that America's "support for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity is unwavering," according to a copy of the letter posted by The Daily Beast. Thanks to a whistleblower and a subsequent parade of U.S. officials, we now know Trump's support for Ukraine was very much wavering and the White House visit was only "convenient" for Trump after Zelensky publicly committed to investigate Trump's domestic political rivals.

Six days before Trump signed the letter assuring Zelensky that "the United States and Ukraine are steadfast partners," Trump was grousing to his ad hoc Ukraine team that the government in Kyiv was "horrible, corrupt people" out to "take me down," The Washington Post reported. Ukraine isn't even a "real country," just part of Russia, he reportedly told his Ukraine envoy Kurt Volker.

Ukrainian officials made it known to their U.S. counterparts that securing a White House visit is "a key foreign policy goal for the Ukrainian president," The Daily Beast notes. "Ukraine relies on support from the U.S. to resist Russian aggression and is warring with Russian-backed separatists who have occupied territory in the eastern part of the country." But Trump's letter was just a tease. And six weeks afterward, he froze military aid to Ukraine.

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said at his October press conference that the letter to Zelensky was just a "courtesy." Requests from a foreign leader to visit the White House are commonplace, "and we try to be courteous and say yes," he said, but with Ukraine, "I don't remember a serious conversation about setting up an actual meeting. There were no dates discussed." Zelensky is still waiting. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads