Later, when a reporter from Ukraine asked Mr. Biden why he didn’t just give Mr. Zelensky all the weapons he wanted, Mr. Biden quipped: “His answer is yes,” pointing at the Ukrainian president.
“I agree!” Mr. Zelensky responded quickly in English, prompting laughter from the audience.
The visit to the White House comes as both sides gird for months of continued fighting. In Russia, officials warned that deliveries of new U.S. weapons would lead “to an aggravation of the conflict,” and Mr. Putin vowed that his government would provide “everything that the army asks for — everything” in its search for conquest.
“President Zelensky’s visit here is at least partially, maybe primarily, designed to bolster that support and rejuvenate the enthusiasm for Ukraine’s success,” said William B. Taylor Jr., who served as ambassador to Ukraine from 2006 to 2009. “That is all going to be necessary for the Ukrainians to be able to pre-empt a Russian offensive.”
“The timing is perfect,” he said.
For Mr. Biden, the highly orchestrated visit is an opportunity to remind Americans why he has committed the United States’ Treasury — though not its soldiers — to defending the borders of a country a continent away. It is critical, he argues, to stand up for the rights of sovereign nations when international law is violated.
That decision has not come without sacrifices and political cost for Mr. Biden, who rightly predicted before the war started that Americans would suffer economic consequences as the ramifications of the first war in Europe in decades rippled across the world. Gas and food prices spiked, helping to send inflation soaring in the United States and elsewhere.
Now, after rallying dozens of nations to oppose Russia’s invasion, Mr. Biden finds himself needing to hold that coalition together for longer than anyone inside the White House imagined at the start of the war. And he faces a concerted effort by Mr. Putin to break the alliance by restricting energy resources and attacking civilian areas in Ukraine.
“The most important part of this visit might be to combat Putin’s belief that time is on his side in the war,” said Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Putin can’t win in the battlefield so what he’s trying to do is break the will of the Ukrainian people by his attacks on civilian areas, and he’s trying to break Europe’s will by energy denial.”