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ANALYSIS | Zelensky's courage and rebellion epitomize the nation he leads


On a crucial trip to Washington, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the US Congress with a historically charged and politically charged message.

A Ukrainian flag signed by his troops, Zelensky's gift 0:40

(CNN) --

If ever a leader personified his nation, it was Volodymyr Zelensky.

Unflinching, rebellious, a civilian forced to wear military gear, Ukraine's president passed through Washington on Wednesday, making a daring first trip out of his country since Russia's brutal and unprovoked invasion in February.

He expressed his heartfelt gratitude for America's multibillion-dollar arms and ammunition, but made it clear that he won't stop asking for more.

In an extraordinarily symbolic appearance at the White House, alongside President Joe Biden and before Congress, Zelensky also delivered news that was difficult to digest.

For example, that the long and bloody battle for freedom, democracy and, ultimately, the survival of a nation that Russian President Vladimir Putin says has no right to exist—a fight for which he is not yet Of course the free world has a stomach—it's far from over.

  • This was the conversation between Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky at their meeting at the White House

The comedic actor-turned-war hero effectively put the fate of millions of Ukrainians in the hands of American lawmakers, taxpayers and families at a time when there is growing skepticism among the incoming House Republican majority about the cost of state involvement. United in conflict.

In an emotional moment during his speech, Zelensky presented House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and US Vice President Kamala Harris with a Ukrainian flag that he recovered from the hottest battlefront in Bakhmut on Tuesday.


Expert: The war in Ukraine is a threat to Europe 2:44

"Our heroes... asked me to bring this flag to the United States Congress, to the members of the House of Representatives and to the senators whose decisions can save millions of people," he said.

“So, let those decisions be made.

May this flag stay with you."

Those images encapsulated Zelensky's mastery of historical allusion and public relations theatrics.

He argued that the war in Ukraine was at a tipping point, drawing an analogy with the Battle of Saratoga—a turning point for an outgunned army against an enemy superpower in America's revolutionary war.

He evoked the heroism of American soldiers in icy trenches in the Battle of the Bulge on Christmas 1944, which thwarted Nazi Germany's last-ditch effort to repel the Allied liberation of Europe.

And he quoted wartime President Franklin Roosevelt to promise a sure, hard-won victory for liberty.

“The American people, in their just strength, will achieve absolute victory,” Zelensky said, quoting Roosevelt.

"The Ukrainian people will also win, absolutely."

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks to the US Congress as Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hold a Ukrainian flag signed by soldiers on the front lines.

(Credit: Mandel NGAN/AFP)

In broader terms, his message was that the Ukraine struggle was not just a conflict over an old grudge on the fringes of the former Soviet Union.

instead, he said his fight is America's and everyone's: contain tyranny and save global democracy.

“The battle is not only for the lives, freedom and security of Ukrainians or any other nation that Russia is trying to conquer,” he said.

“This fight will define what world our children and grandchildren and their children and grandchildren will live in.”

Zelensky's multiple audiences

Like any politician, Zelensky addressed multiple audiences at once.

— To Putin, who thought he would overthrow Zelensky and his nation in a blitzkrieg in February, he sent a sign of US-backed heroic resistance after flying to Washington on a US Air Force plane, showing off the Russians fighting a war they can't win.

— To the Americans, Zelensky expressed his deep appreciation for the billions of dollars in arms and aid, past and to come.

Implicitly, he argued that they could not abandon this brave hero of independence without also suppressing something of his own patriotic national identity.

— For the incoming House Republican majority, some of whose members want to cut aid to Ukraine, the welcome received by the heroic Ukrainian leader in the House suggested they would be ashamed to opt out.

  • Volodymyr Zelensky in Washington: Financial aid for Ukraine is "an investment in global security"

— For the Europeans, who are enduring their own bleak winter with high electricity and heating prices after Russian power was cut off, and who might be willing to push for an end to the conflict on Putin's terms, Zelensky It showed that the West is united and the meaning of Biden's words when he said on Wednesday that the United States will be "for as long as it takes."

— And to Ukrainians crouching in cellars and soldiers on the front lines, it showed they are not alone as Russian attacks on their power plants compound winter.

“We will celebrate Christmas, perhaps by candlelight.

Not because it's more romantic, no, but because there will be no electricity,” she said.

"We will celebrate Christmas and even if there is no electricity, the light of our faith, in ourselves, will not go out."

Behind the pageantry, political questions about America's staying power.

But Zelensky's inspiring rhetoric and heroic bearing could not hide the uncertainties and risks of a war in which the US is already fighting remotely with its rival and nuclear superpower, Russia.

Zelensky repeatedly noted that despite the largesse of US artillery support and the imminent arrival of high-tech weapons like a Patriot missile battery Biden unveiled Wednesday, his nation was still outnumbered and outgunned. .

Joe Biden with Volodymyr Zelensky at the White House (Credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

“What is going to happen after the Patriots are installed?

After that, we will send another signal to President Biden that we would like to have more Patriots,” Zelensky said during a White House press conference.

In his speech to Congress he said: “We have artillery, yes, thank you.

We have it.

It's enough?

Honestly, it's not."

Both times, he was joking, but that didn't mean he wasn't serious.

In his speech to Congress, Zelensky pleaded with Washington to send more offensive weapons to fuel victory.

"I assure you that Ukrainian soldiers can perfectly operate American tanks and planes," Zelensky told lawmakers.

His comment addressed a rare point of contention in the middle of the ceremony.

While Ukraine is desperate for weapons to carry out a tougher fight against Russia, the fate of her country is not the only thing Biden must consider.

The US president has limited the power of the weapons he sends into battle, balancing the need to defend a European democracy with the desire not to trigger a disastrous direct clash with Russia and to avoid crossing often invisible red lines, the location of which only know Putin.

“Now you say, why don't we give Ukraine everything there is to give?” Biden said at the White House, explaining that giving Ukraine overwhelming force could fracture the transatlantic consensus needed to support the war.

“We are going to give Ukraine what it needs to be able to defend itself, to be able to be victorious and to be successful on the battlefield,” Biden said, arguing that the European allies intimately understand what is at stake.

But he added: “They are not looking to go to war with Russia.

They are not looking for a third world war."

And neither did he.

Zelensky also had a message for some members of the incoming Republican majority, who are skeptical of massive aid for Ukraine, and for the possible new Speaker of the House, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who warned again after Wednesday's speech that he did not support the idea of ​​issuing a blank check to Ukraine.

  • Time magazine chooses Volodymyr Zelensky and "the spirit of Ukraine" as person of the year

“Your money is not charity.

It is an investment in security and in global democracy that we manage in the most responsible way,” Zelensky said.

Yet given the partisan fury that will erupt in a divided Washington next year, there is no guarantee that US lawmakers will even be able to fund their own government, let alone one fighting for their survival thousands of miles away.

Several Republican members who have expressed reservations about aid to Ukraine, such as Reps. Lauren Boebert of Colorado and Matt Gaetz of Florida, did not bring themselves to applaud when Zelensky was introduced.

Zelensky's visit recalled an earlier visit to Washington that began 81 years ago Thursday, by another leader of a dark and bomb-ravaged nation desperate for America's help to turn the tide and win a victory over totalitarianism.

Pelosi, probably presiding over her last major congressional event, recalled how her father was in the House, as a congressman from Maryland, when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed the US Congress on December 26, 1941. Zelensky borrowed one of the best lines of the great statesman, who was also presented as the symbol of the courage of a nation.

"Ukraine is holding its lines and will never surrender," he said.

US Congress Volodymyr Zelensky

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2022-12-22

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