In his latest video speech, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will address the United States Congress, as he utilizes the West’s main legislative bodies as a worldwide stage to mobilize support against Russia’s overwhelming assault.
Zelenskyy’s livestreamed presentation into the US Capitol on Wednesday will be one of the most critical in a one-of-a-kind and very public campaign in which he has evoked Winston Churchill, Hamlet, and the strength of global opinion in his quest to halt Russia.
As the war nears its three-week mark, Zelenskyy has used his campaign to beg NATO leaders to “shut the sky” to block Russian bombings that are wreaking havoc on his nation. It’s a one-of-a-kind plea that has become a rallying cry in popular culture. It has also pitted Zelenskyy against President Joe Biden, whose administration has refrained from imposing a no-fly zone or transferring military planes from Poland in order to avoid a direct confrontation with Russia.
According to a White House person familiar with the situation, Biden will give his own statement after Zelenskyy’s, in which he is likely to pledge an extra $800 million in security aid to Ukraine. That brings the total amount disclosed in the previous week to $1 billion. According to the person, who was not allowed to talk and spoke on the condition of anonymity, it includes funds for anti-armor and air-defense weaponry.
The boyish but unshaven Zelenskyy has emerged as a heroic figure at the center of what many see as Europe’s largest security danger since International War II, appearing in his now signature army green T-shirt as he pleads to world leaders. Almost 3 million people have fled Ukraine, making it the largest refugee exodus in contemporary history.
Last week, he questioned the British House of Commons whether Ukraine is “to be or not to be,” invoking Shakespeare’s hero. He addressed the Canadian Parliament and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday, addressing “Dear Justin.” At the outset of the war, Zelenskyy urged European Union leaders to do the politically unimaginable and fast-track Ukraine’s membership, and he has continued to press for more assistance to safeguard his fledgling democracy than international leaders have so far offered.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Massachusetts, said, “I know he’ll ask for additional support.”
Biden has emphasized that there would be no American soldiers on the ground in Ukraine, and he has dismissed Zelenskyy’s repeated calls for airplanes as too dangerous, potentially leading to a direct conflict with nuclear-armed Russia.
According to Biden, “direct combat between NATO and Russia means World War III.”
Defense officials in the United States, for their part, are perplexed by Zelenskyy’s need for more airplanes. They claim Ukraine doesn’t fly its current jets very often, but makes effective use of other weaponry provided by the West, such as Stinger missiles for taking down helicopters and other aircraft.
While officials expect Zelenskyy to request fighter jets or assistance in establishing a no-fly zone once again, the Biden administration is planning to send Ukraine “more of what’s been working well,” according to an official who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
According to the official, the Biden administration has already sent Ukraine over 600 Stinger missiles, 2,600 Javelin anti-armor systems, unmanned aerial system tracking radars, grenade launchers, 200 shotguns, 200 machine guns, and nearly 40 million rounds of small arms ammunition, as well as helicopters, patrol boats, satellite imagery, body armor, helmets, and other tactical gear.
Despite the fact that Zelenskyy and Biden talk on the phone virtually every day, the Ukrainian president has found a more sympathetic audience in Congress.
This isn’t the first time he’s made a direct plea to members of Congress, who have stayed unusually united in their support for Ukraine, with some believing they’ve pledged to do everything they can in the battle against Russia. On a private conversation with some 300 MPs and staff members about two weeks earlier, Zelenskyy pleaded with them to deploy more planes if they couldn’t impose a no-fly zone.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said after returning from a weekend visit to Poland with other lawmakers, “We believe the United States needs to do more.”
Congress has already approved $13.6 billion in military and humanitarian help for Ukraine, and the newly announced security assistance will come from that fund, which is part of a larger package signed into law by Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday. However, lawmakers anticipate that further assistance will be required.
When they spoke last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Zelenskyy requested for assistance in reconstructing his nation.
During that call, Zelenskyy requested and received permission to speak before the United States Congress, which the Democratic leader promptly granted.
In a statement announcing the address, Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer stated, “The Congress, our country, and the globe are in awe of the people of Ukraine.”
“We remain resolute in our resolve to defend Ukraine as they face Putin’s brutal and evil actions,” they stated.
The next stop for Zelenskyy may be Spain. The Ukrainian president has been asked to talk to Spanish parliamentarians via videolink by the speaker of the Spanish Congress of Deputies.
Speaker Meritxell Batet stated in a letter to Zelenskyy that the speech “will be a fantastic chance for the chamber, all Spaniards, and the thousands of Ukrainians residing in Spain to listen to your message and voice our firmest support.”