Zelensky to the US Congress: “Your assistance is not charity, it is an investment”

Volodymyr Zelensky’s visit to Washington on Saturday had a main objective: to garner the support of the United States, his main ally, at a crucial moment in the war against Russia and with growing skepticism in some sectors about just how far the US support should go. Ukrainian case. For this, his speech on Capitol Hill was the highlight: at prime time in the United States and before a joint session of the US Congress, the decisive body when it comes to approving military and financial assistance to his country. “Ukraine is holding on and will never surrender,” Zelensky reassured lawmakers who had visited Bakhmut the day before, a city on the Donbass front that has seen fierce fighting against the Russians for months. Greeted like a hero by lawmakers, the Ukrainian president said, with a standing ovation for several minutes, “Every inch of that land is stained with blood.” Relevant record news No, this is how the Patriot system that the United States will send to Ukraine works, Zelensky’s speech was spoiled. They are deputies like Matt Gaetz, Lauren Boebert or Andrew Clyde, who are very close to former President Donald Trump and his “America First” policy. They have been the most visible face of growing skepticism among the Republican Party about the bill the war in Ukraine is carrying for US coffers. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, Joe Biden’s government has delivered nearly $20 billion in weapons to Ukraine. The US President himself announced another 1.85 billion shortly before Zelensky’s speech, when he held a meeting with his counterpart at the White House. The Ukrainian president’s visit also came at a defining moment for this chapter: in the midst of the passage of the $1.7 trillion spending bill for 2023 that includes about 45 billion in military, humanitarian and financial aid to Ukraine. Republican Representative Warren Davidson said Congress was not the appropriate place for a speech from a foreign president and that the United States should spend money on border security with Mexico. His colleague Thomas Massie defended that in Ukraine this spending would be equivalent to $200 million per constituency. “What would each MP get for his district of 200 million?” he asked on Twitter. “How long will it take the children of each district to pay the interest on this debt?” Zelensky’s visit also came two weeks before the renewal of Congress and the return of the House of Representatives to Republican hands, after the elections last November. The person who would be its president, Republican Kevin McCarthy, insisted after the Ukrainian leader’s speech on something he has said in recent weeks: “I support Ukraine, but I did not support a blank check.” Zelensky is aware of these moves. Public opinion in the United States is also supportive of Ukraine, which is still in the majority, but lower than it was a few months ago with a possible deterioration in the continuation of the conflict as is likely. “Your money is not charity,” he told lawmakers and viewers. “It is an investment in global security and democracy that we will use in the most responsible way.” The vision offered by Zelensky is that the future of democracies around the world depends on fighting the “tyranny” of Vladimir Putin. “This battle cannot be ignored,” the Ukrainian president said, stressing that the war will enter a “turning point” next year when “Ukrainian courage and American determination must guarantee the future of our common freedom.” Faced with mounting pressure on Zelensky to negotiate a peace deal with Putin, the Ukrainian president defended that “it would be naive to wait for Russia to take steps towards peace”. Zelensky was clear about what his country needed: more weapons to defeat Russia. He pulled out his past as an actor to make lawmakers laugh. “We have artillery. Yes, thank you very much,” he said, referring to the weapons he got from the United States. “Is that enough? Well not the truth.’ But what carried most of his speech, as usual, was emotion. In his harsh voice, he defended that Ukraine was “alive and kicking”, that his citizens would not stop until “absolute” victory and that many would celebrate Christmas in bomb shelters and without electricity, but united. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, sitting behind Zelensky, compared the Ukrainian president’s visit to that of Winston Churchill in 1941, in the midst of World War II, to encourage American support for Adolf Hitler. On his first trip abroad since the start of the war, Zelensky was reminded of other historical incidents. From the Battle of the Bulge, at the end of that world war, where American soldiers shed their blood in the middle of Christmas, as Ukrainians do now in Bakhmut. Or the one at Saratoga, which is considered a turning point in the young United States of America’s war of independence against the British capital. “We Ukrainians will present our war for independence and freedom with dignity and success,” he declared. Zelensky has repeated his thanks on several occasions for all the support that has come from the United States to Biden, the lawmakers and the public: “I want to thank every American family who values ​​the warmth of their home and wants the same heat for it. Another city”. The most symbolic moment came at the end of the speech. Zelensky presented a flag signed by Ukrainian soldiers who had been with them on the Bakhmut front the day before. He handed it to Pelosi and US Vice President Kamala Harris, who waved it in front of the deputies.

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