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ANALYSIS | Why is Zelensky's surprise visit to the United States so significant?


President Volodymyr Zelensky's visit to the White House will symbolically strengthen the US role in the war for Ukraine's survival. 

They predict that Biden will receive Zelensky in the White House 2:07

(CNN) --

President Volodymyr Zelensky's visit to the White House on Wednesday will symbolically reinforce America's role as the arsenal of democracy in Ukraine's bitter war for survival and send a stunning public rebuke to Russia's president, Vladimir Putin.

His first trip out of Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February to be to the United States will also highlight President Joe Biden's historic role in reviving the Western alliance that kept the Soviet Union in check and now counteracts Moscow's new expansionism in an effective proxy war between the nuclear superpowers.

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Zelensky's arrival will bring poignant echoes of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's arrival in Washington, an event that will mark its 81st anniversary on Thursday, days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

That Christmas visit cemented the alliance that would win World War II and built the postwar democratic world.

  • The United States weighs how to respond to possible Russian escalation in Ukraine and the potential use of tactical nuclear weapons

Zelensky compared his nation's resistance against Russia to Britain's lonely defiance of the Nazis in the days before the US's entry into World War II during a video address to the UK Parliament earlier in this year, and his arrival in the US capital will underline the parallels with the earlier meeting of Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt.

His visit takes place amid extraordinary security measures.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would not even confirm early reports that she would welcome Zelensky to the US Capitol in an unexpected coda to her presidency, saying Tuesday night: “Not yet. we know.

We just don't know."

A White House reception for Zelensky, who sources say is due to travel to the United States on Tuesday night, will above all be a sure sign of US and Western support for Ukraine's battle against Putin, who says the country will not has a right to exist.

The war exemplifies what Biden has framed as a global struggle between democracy and totalitarianism, which he has placed at the center of his foreign policy.


Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, who visited Ukraine earlier this month, said on CNN's “AC360” that Zelensky was coming to Washington on a specific mission.

“What he is trying to do is establish a direct correlation between our support and survival and support and future victory for Ukraine,” said Gallego, a member of the Armed Services Commission.

Zelensky arrives for new US military aid.

Biden will announce additional $1.8 billion in security assistance for Ukraine during the visit, with the coveted Patriot missile system as part of that package, a US official told CNN's Phil Mattingly.

Washington also plans to send precision bomb kits to Ukraine to turn less sophisticated munitions into "smart bombs" that could help attack Russian defensive lines, sources told CNN's Pentagon team.

Zelensky's visit also comes as Congress is poised to approve another $45 billion in aid for Ukraine and NATO allies, deepening the commitment that has helped Kyiv's forces inflict an unexpectedly bloody price on the Putin's forces.

Will Ukraine be able to continue to hold its own against Russia?


The decision on the Patriot system, which would satisfy a long-standing Ukrainian request, reflects a US process of matching its aid with Russia's shifting attack strategy.

The system would help Kyiv better counter Russia's brutal missile attacks on cities and power facilities, which it has mounted in an effective attempt to weaponize the harsh winter to break the will of Ukrainian civilians.

The meeting between Biden and Zelensky, who have spoken on several occasions by phone and video but have not seen each other in person since the invasion, comes at a vital time in the war.

Biden has for months cautiously calibrated US shipments of weapons and weapons systems in a way designed to save Ukraine but also prevent the conflict from escalating into a disastrous direct confrontation between NATO and Russia.

For example, he rejected Ukrainian calls for the West to impose a no-fly zone over the country.

The Patriot, a long-range air defense system, would represent America's deepest dive into the conflict yet.

Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe Wesley Clark said Zelensky's trip reflects a critical moment when the fate of a war Ukraine cannot win without greater US support could be decided before it Russia can regroup.

"This is a window of opportunity for Ukraine and also a window of danger," Clark told CNN's John Berman on "AC360" on Tuesday.

“Russia is weak, (but) Russia will be stronger.

This is a period in which the United States needs to pour its support.

… This is the window, President Zelensky knows… if he is going to defeat, with the support of the United States, the Russian aggression in Ukraine,” Clark said.

"Wait until summer and it will be a completely different battlefield."

How will Putin respond to Zelensky's visit?

But the highly public nature of Zelensky's visit, and the expected announcement about the Patriot system, also risks provoking Putin further at a time when he has pointed out that, disastrous as the war for Russian troops, he thinks long-term, betting that the West's commitment will eventually wane.

Putin's warning about the use of nuclear weapons 0:48

His visit to Congress will also play into an increasingly important debate on Capitol Hill over aid to Ukraine as Republicans gear up to take over the House majority in the new year.

Some pro-Donald Trump members, who will have significant influence on the slim Republican majority, have warned that the billions of dollars in US cash that have been sent to Ukraine should instead shore up the southern border of the country, where an increase in new immigrants is expected in the coming days.

Aware of the pressure on his right, the possible next speaker of the House of Representatives, Republican Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, warned that Ukraine should not expect a "blank check" from the new House.

Although Ukraine still has strong Republican support in the Senate, it is these kinds of shifting political dynamics that appear to inform the Kremlin's perceptions of how long America's resolve will last in a conflict on which Putin's political survival may well depend.

Zelensky's pre-Christmas trip promises to be the biggest PR coup to date for the comedic actor and media savvy-turned-president, who has deftly tapped into the history and patriotic mythology of Western nations in a series of videos targeting lawmakers from war-torn Kyiv.

Often, while grateful for outside support, he seems to be trying to shame the West into doing more and creating a deeper understanding among voters about the problems facing Ukraine.

In March, for example, Zelensky evoked Mount Rushmore and Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” speech during a virtual address to Congress.

He also referred to the two days of infamy in modern history when Americans directly experienced fear of aerial bombing.

“Remember Pearl Harbor, the terrible morning of December 7, 1941, when your sky was black from attacking planes.

Just remember that," Zelensky said.

“Remember 9/11, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories, into battlefields.

When innocent people were attacked, attacked from the air, like no one else expected, they couldn't stop it.

Our country lives the same every day.”

In the footsteps of Churchill

When Zelensky arrives in Washington, he may well experience the same revelation Churchill experienced about the capital's twinkling lights at Christmas after months in the dark from blackouts caused by airstrikes at home.

The British wartime leader sailed to the United States aboard HMS Duke of York, dodging submarines in the wintry Atlantic and took a plane from the Virginia coast to Washington, where he was met on December 22, 1941 by President Franklin. Roosevelt before their joint press conference the next day.

During days of brainstorming and meetings -- fueled by the Churchill regime of sherry for breakfast, Scotch and soda for lunch, champagne in the evening and a shot of 90-year-old brandy before bed -- the two leaders engineered the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan and laid the foundations for the Western alliance that Biden has reinvigorated in his support for Ukraine.

Churchill, who for months pined for America's involvement in World War II and knew it was the key to defeating Adolf Hitler, said during his visit: "I spent this anniversary and celebration far from my country, far from my family and however, I cannot truly say that I feel far from home”.

Zelensky will surely receive a similar hero's welcome and will hope that the additional US support means that Washington has indeed “drawn the sword for liberty and thrown away the scabbard”, as Churchill said of the Roosevelt administration in his speech to Congress. on December 26, 1941.

The Ukrainian leader is likely to appreciate the historical parallels.

He already paraphrased one of Churchill's most famous wartime speeches in an emotional address to members of Britain's parliament in March.

“We will not give up, we will not lose, we will go all the way,” he said.

War in UkraineVolodymyr Zelensky

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2022-12-21

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