Zelensky’s Historic Visit to Washington

By: Chak Kai Wong—Correspondant

On December 21st, 2022, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Washington D.C., giving a monumental speech in front of the U.S. Congress. 

The visit to the U.S. capital was Zelensky’s first trip outside Ukraine’s border since the onset of the Russo-Ukrainian War in early 2022. Zelensky showed up to give his speech in his iconic uniform of military boots, khakis, and an olive-green shirt, reminding the U.S. lawmakers of his status as a wartime leader. He also had a private conversation with President Biden earlier that day, strengthening the tie between the two countries and planning new cooperation for the upcoming year. 

The Ukraine War has entered a new phase of stalemate marked by the beginning of the mud season which makes traveling by any military vehicle extremely difficult. Under these circumstances, Russia has shifted its strategy to inflict even more damage on Ukraine’s civilians: repeated missile strikes and drone attacks on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure in recent weeks and the removal of Ukraine’s access to the electrical grid amid freezing cold weather. 

In his speech, Zelensky pleaded the U.S. legislators for more aids, stressing the importance and relevance of the fighting taking place miles away from the borders of America. “Our two nations are allies in this battle, and next year will be a turning point, I know it, the point when Ukrainian courage and American resolve must guarantee the future of our common freedom,” said Zelensky.

As a result, the U.S. has announced recently in January that it would provide an additional nearly $3 billion in military aid to Ukraine, and, for the first time, with 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and precision-guided bombs for fighter jets to bolster Ukraine air-defense capability. “Bradley is not a tank, but it’s a tank-killer. The package will provide a significant boost to Ukraine’s already impressive armored capabilities, and we’re confident that it will aid them on the battlefield,” said Brigadier General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary.

But not everyone in the U.S. Congress was convinced. While Zelensky’s requests resonated with most lawmakers, a small group of far-right Republicans, allied with former president Donald Trump and his isolationist foreign policy, criticized the amount and lack of administration of the military aid. “I think people are going to be sitting in a recession and they’re not going to write a blank cheque to Ukraine. War is important, but at the same time it can’t be the only thing we do. There has to be accountability and supervision to make sure the resources are going to where it is needed,” commented Kevin McCarthy, the newly elected Republican House speaker.

Similar comments from other Republican Congress members have underlined an even greater division over the support for Ukraine’s war and casted the future of U.S. aid into a state of increasing uncertainty. Given the negotiating power this radical minority has gained by withholding McCarthy’s confirmation for the speakership, their opposition can further be amplified due to the razor-thin margin of the Republican majority in the House. “Under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine,” said Marjorie Taylor Greene, far-right Republican congresswomen from Georgia. 

Responding to these criticisms, Zelensky made a direct appeal to the Republican critics during his address to the Congress, seeking to make the cause of the war about more than his own homeland. “The world is too interconnected and interdependent for the U.S. to stand aside and at the same time feel safe when such a battle continues. Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way,” promised Zelensky.

“I know that everything depends on us, the Ukrainian armed forces, yet so much depends on the world. So much in the world depends on you. The struggle will define in what world our children and grandchildren will live in,” added Zelensky.

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