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OPINION | Zelensky's powerful message to Putin

2022-12-22T21:36:21.309Z


If the US does not continue its support for Ukraine, Russia could win and the world as we know it would change.


What does Zelensky seek to achieve on his visit to the United States?

1:45

Editor's Note:

Frida Ghitis, (@fridaghitis) a former producer and correspondent for CNN, is a world affairs columnist.

She is a weekly opinion contributor for CNN, a columnist for The Washington Post and a columnist for the World Politics Review.

The opinions expressed in this comment belong solely to its author.

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(CNN) --

Members of the United States Congress, Republicans and Democrats, rose to their feet again and again Wednesday night, nearly drowning Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky in an emotional standing ovation.

It was an extraordinary evening, the culmination of an unusual day at a crucial moment in history.


The entire day was addressed to three audiences: the American people and their leaders, the Ukrainian people and the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin.

Zelensky's message resonated powerfully with all of them: from the moment he landed in the United States in his signature olive-green outfit, through the warm welcome he received at the White House from President Joe Biden, to the enthusiastic reception in Congress, a place where few foreign leaders have the honor of speaking before a joint meeting of the two chambers.

  • 5 takeaways from Volodymyr Zelensky's historic visit to Washington

The purpose of the visit was to convince the Americans to continue to support Ukraine, to show Ukrainians that there is reason to remain hopeful and resilient, and to show Putin that Ukraine is not willing to give up.

Ukraine's president is an eloquent speaker, but the images alone spoke volumes.

Biden's hand on Zelensky's shoulder.

The warmth that so many members of Congress exuded when greeting him.

And then there were the words.

Imagine being Putin, visiting one of his few allies, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, just yesterday, and watching the politically polarized United States unite to embrace Zelensky.

Imagine Putin listening to Biden say, as he did at a White House press conference after speaking with Zelensky for more than two hours: "And it was very important for him and for the whole world to see that President Zelensky and I are united, two countries together, to make sure that it cannot succeed...."

"It is important that [Putin] knows that we are going to do everything in our power, everything in our power for [Zelensky] to succeed."

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

The president of Ukraine finally had that visit to the White House that he had requested years ago from President Trump, hoping that the image would deter Putin's aggression.

The visit would have to wait for another US president, and it would be too late to prevent Putin's assault.

Zelensky made his historic journey at a pivotal moment in what future generations may come to regard as one of the defining conflicts of our time: the battle between democracy and autocracy, in which Ukraine is today the fiery front line, blood-soaked and trembling.

He came to say "thank you" to the Americans.

And she repeated it over and over again.

"I hope my words of respect and gratitude resonate in every American heart."

But that was only the first part of his message to the country that has supplied the weapons that have helped Ukraine defend itself against a much larger enemy: Zelensky came to explain why this is not just Ukraine's fight.

"Your money is not charity"

"Your money is not charity," he assured a Congress poised to debate billions more in military and economic support, where skeptical Republicans will soon have more leverage.

"It is an investment in global security and democracy, which we manage in the most responsible way."

To continue what has been a successful defense against Russia, despite appalling human suffering, Zelensky had to persuade Americans -- in Congress and at home -- that Ukraine's fight is a fight for world values. free.

  • ANALYSIS |

    Zelensky's courage and rebellion epitomize the nation he leads

As Zelensky pleaded for continued and increased support, he would not be so brazen, so blunt to say it directly, but we should know the truth: he may be saying thank you, but it is the free world that should be thanking Ukraine.

Ukrainians are fighting a battle for freedom, democracy and the very notion of national sovereignty.

A Ukrainian victory tells dictators around the world that the good old days, when a strong country could invade and gobble up its neighbors, are not coming back.

The defeat of Ukraine would change everyone's world.

It is clear that this is not only their war.

"We really fought for our common victory against this tyranny that is real life," Zelensky told a White House news conference, "and we will win."

The President of Ukraine, in his gravelly voice, was trying to convince the American people and their leadership to continue to support Ukraine.

He invoked the battles of American soldiers against the Nazis in 1944. And he pointed out that Ukrainians will celebrate Christmas by candlelight, not because it is more romantic, but because the Russian attacks have left much of the country without electricity, heat or running water.

"We don't complain," he said, "or compare who has it harder.

Ukraine just wants to get the support it needs to keep fighting until victory."

To underscore this point, he said that soldiers fighting the brutal battle for Bakhmut asked him to gift their battle flag -- a flag of Ukraine signed by its supporters -- to the US Congress.

Tears were shed in the Chamber.

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

Zelensky arrived in Washington 300 days after the start of the unprovoked invasion of Russia.

It was his first international trip since the war began in February, and it came at a time when several factors could conspire to counter what has been the remarkable and fierce resistance of the Ukrainian people with the massive support of the United States and its allies in the NATO.

With winter just around the corner and Putin's forces using Iranian drones and other artillery to bomb crucial infrastructure, deliberately targeting civilian facilities and leaving millions of Ukrainians in the cold and dark, "trying to use winter as weapon", in the words of President Joe Biden, "freezing people, starving people", the suffering of Ukrainian men, women and children is getting worse...

Changes in the House of Representatives

Putin tries to break what has been an indomitable will to resist.

At the same time, the US House of Representatives, which has staunchly supported Biden's pro-Ukraine campaign, is about to change hands.

Some Republicans, such as Kevin McCarthy, the likely new Speaker of the House, have expressed some reluctance to continue supporting Kyiv on a large scale, and McCarthy has said he would not automatically support calls for more aid from the Biden administration.

And this comes just as Putin is believed to be planning a new offensive.

Putin, who rules a much bigger and richer country, apparently still believes he can win.

Zelensky revealed that he outlined a 10-point peace plan to Biden, but judging by Putin's recent remarks, Russia seems more willing to continue fighting than to negotiate.

Putin appears to be counting on the US and NATO to tire of and wane their support for Kyiv.

That is why this speech, which is reminiscent of Winston Churchill's before Congress in December 1941, has possibly been the most important that the Ukrainian leader has delivered since the beginning of the war.

If the Americans get tired of supporting Ukraine, if they listen to the ugly voices that put Zelensky down, Russia could end up winning, and the world as we know it would change.

It would be a victory for autocracy and a grave loss for democracy.

If Zelensky was able to make it clear, his historic visit was a triumph.

Volodymyr Zelensky

Source: cnnespanol

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