The United States is the first country since Russia’s invasion that the Ukrainian president has visited. Zelenskyy, in some senses, was overdue for a visit, especially given that Biden and his team have mobilized unprecedented military and financial assistance for Ukraine.
In his evening address to Congress, Zelenskyy expressed his gratitude for America’s staunch support and received bipartisan applause. “I thank every American family which cherishes the warmth of its home,” he said. “I thank President Biden and both parties in the Senate and the House for your invaluable assistance.”
By speaking in English, the Ukrainian president was savvy in ensuring his message would reach Americans directly, and occasionally offered a little bit of punch. (“Ukraine didn’t fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking,” he said.) There was even a gift exchange: Zelenskyy brought a Ukrainian flag that soldiers on the frontlines in the Donbas had given him the day prior, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi presented him with the US flag that had flown above the Capitol today.
Above all, Zelenskyy made a case to lawmakers that Ukraine’s struggle is part of a global fight for freedom and democracy. He also emphasized that the threat of Putin’s violence transcended Ukraine — and that Iran’s delivery of drones to Russia poses a larger challenge to America and its allies.
“Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy,” Zelenskyy said.
Congress is on the verge of approving another $45 billion in aid to Ukraine and NATO allies, in addition to more than $65 billion in humanitarian and military aid that has already been sent since the conflict began. In conjunction with Zelenskyy’s visit, Biden also announced a $1.85 billion military package featuring a Patriot missile battery to bolster Ukraine’s defenses against Russian attacks. “Thanks from our ordinary people to your ordinary people,” Zelenskyy said earlier at the White House.
It was an important visit, but also a last-ditch effort to convince the incoming House GOP that blocking aid to Ukraine next year will come at a price. Still, I expect any future assistance to Ukraine will now become a major issue for the House GOP, and especially for those inclined to not vote for McCarthy as Speaker.
We'll see. At the very least I expect the cost for McCarthy to earn votes from the nutjob crowd is to publicly say he'll sabotage further aid to Kyiv.