Addressing the U.S. Congress, Zelensky called on President Biden to give Ukraine greater support, but responding to his request was not easy.
No foreign leader has addressed the US Congress like Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did on March 16. In the well-illustrated video, Zelensky is succinct and emotional, directly calling on U.S. President Joe Biden to take more drastic action to help Ukraine deal with Russian military action in the country.
President Zelensky’s request is not new: establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine to prevent Russian air force activity. While the call wasn’t surprising, the strength of the message and the way he specifically emphasized the role of the U.S. president was seen as a step forward compared to the past. However, it also left White House bosses in limbo, according to observers.
According to Washington Post columnist Dan Balz, Zelensky’s purpose in the speech was to call for as much aid as possible, emphasizing his role as the leader of a country facing conflict. But he is not a NATO member and feels alone.
During the first part of his 17-minute speech, Zelensky spoke through an interpreter, but at the end of the speech, he switched to delivering a message directly to President Biden in English for added weight: “You are the leader: you are the leader of a great country. Leader. I want you to be a leader of the world. To be a leader of the world means to be a leader of peace.”
Barz, however, sees a very different role for President Biden. Through months of diplomacy, Biden and his advisers have persuaded allies to support a policy of tough sanctions imposed on Russia in response to Russian military action in Ukraine. NATO members have also sent and continue to transfer billions of dollars in weapons to the Ukrainian military.
But as leader of the coalition, President Biden has been forced to balance Ukraine’s needs with his efforts to stay united in the coalition. More importantly, his goal is to provide Ukraine with as much military support as possible without triggering another world war. The White House president has repeatedly stated that the United States will not be directly involved in the Ukraine war.
For this reason, Biden has repeatedly opposed proposals to create a no-fly zone and move fighter jets from NATO members to Ukraine, despite his promise to back Kyiv with many modern weapons.
Zelensky’s speech to the U.S. Congress is likely to put more pressure on President Biden to figure out how to do more. It could also help set the agenda for a NATO meeting that President Biden will attend in Europe next week.
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta described President Zelensky as “the most powerful lobbyist in the world right now.” As evidenced by President Biden’s announcement of an additional $800 million in aid to Kyiv, just hours after the Ukrainian leader addressed the U.S. Congress.
That wasn’t all Zelensky wanted, but was seen as a nod to his temperament and leadership. Commentator Balz commented that from now on, those who once declared their support for Ukraine will have to be more active and proactive, leaving no room for cold fears.
To that end, Zelensky knows how to tailor his messages to the countries and audiences he wants to reach, even though his speeches to the U.S. Congress are not so different from those he delivered after the conflict erupted.
The Ukrainian president, wearing an olive green military-style T-shirt, sits at a table and looks straight into the camera, referring to the Pearl Harbor attack and the 11/13 terror attacks that dragged America into World War II. September 2001. Zelensky said Ukraine “feels like this every night.”
Addressing the British Parliament last week, President Zelensky quoted the late Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the great poet William Shakespeare. To US congressmen, he repeated the message of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, emphasizing the hope that Washington can do more to help Kyiv emerge from the crisis.
The most striking part of President Zelensky’s speech yesterday was when he shared a video of the dire situation in Ukraine, showing how the country has been devastated by the conflict. The video ends with five short words on a black background: “Close Ukraine’s airspace”.
The general message of the President of Ukraine is simple and clear. “I urge you to take stronger action,” he said. He also suggested that the West would impose more sanctions on Russia until Moscow halted its military operations in Ukraine.
He emphasized that the international organizations formed after World War II had shown that they were incapable of defending a country like Ukraine in this day and age, and suggested “the creation of new institutions, alliances and alliances.” New…a responsible , a powerful alliance of states … aimed at the immediate avoidance of conflict.” While Zelensky did not specify what “international organization” he was referring to, everyone seemed to guess that he was referring to NATO.
According to Balz, President Zelensky’s messages and images had a significant emotional impact, turning his speech from mundane to extraordinary.
Former Defense Secretary Panetta said the U.S. and NATO had no choice but to push for military support for Ukraine ahead of Russia’s military action. “The United States and our NATO allies have to be tough. If Putin doubles his military efforts in Ukraine, we have to double as well,” he said.
In 2014, conflict erupted in eastern Ukraine, and the country’s other president addressed the U.S. Congress. President Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian leader at the time, demanded increased U.S. military aid to counter what he called Russia’s “intervention.” After a meeting with President Barack Obama, Poroshenko was asked if he had achieved what he wanted. “I have everything possible,” he replied.
Baltz said there’s a world of difference between “anything is possible” and “everything we want,” and that’s the dilemma that President Biden faces after Zelensky’s persuasive speech.
A former actor, screenwriter and producer, President Zelensky went to great lengths to show Congress why his country deserves more from Washington. But his call for a “no-fly zone” has remained silent as President Biden has repeatedly reiterated that the United States will not be drawn into World War 3 over Ukraine.
Takeo (according to Washington post)