Zelenskyy Prods US Congress Toward Aggressive Military Action by Invoking Pearl Harbor and 9/11
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday thanked the United States for the aid his embattled nation has received to date while begging for even more American help to keep his hopes of turning back a Russian onslaught alive.
Speaking by video from the battered Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, Zelenskyy addressed a joint session of Congress, speaking in Ukrainian through a translator for most of his speech.
“Friends, Americans, in your great history, you have pages that would allow you to understand Ukrainians, understand us now, when we need you right now,” he said, according to CNN.
“Remember Pearl Harbor, terrible morning of December 7, 1941, when your sky was black from the planes attacking you,” Zelenskyy said. “Just remember it, remember, September the 11th, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn U.S. cities, independent territories, into battlefields, when innocent people were attacked from air, just like nobody else expected it. You could not stop it. Our country experiences the same, every day, right now at this moment.”
Zelensky to Congress: “Remember Pearl Harbor…Remember September 11th…Our country experiences this every day, right now, at this moment, every night for three weeks now.” pic.twitter.com/KrZOrlqIjB
— Axios (@axios) March 16, 2022
Zelenskyy said the freedom of millions of innocent people is at stake.
“Right now, the destiny of our country is being decided, the destiny of our people, whether Ukrainians will be free, whether they will be able to preserve their democracy,” Zelenskyy continued, according to The Hill.
“Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people,” he said, showing a video of the damage done by Russia’s attacks on civilian locations.
Zelenskyy asked for more sophisticated weapons, for a no-fly zone over Ukraine that would be enforced by NATO and for even tougher economic sanctions to throttle Russia.
He closed with an English-language plea to President Joe Biden.
“I am addressing President Biden. You are the leader of the nation, your nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace,” Zelenskyy concluded.
WARNING: The following video contains graphic violence and images that some viewers may find disturbing.
President Zelensky shows the United States Congress a video of his nation being destroyed by Vladimir Putin’s forces, and tells America: “Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.” pic.twitter.com/QBFYc8Ex1H
— Josh Campbell (@joshscampbell) March 16, 2022
The Biden administration has sought to walk a tightrope by giving Ukraine vast amounts of military equipment and billions in humanitarian and military aid while avoiding a direct military confrontation with Russia.
To highlight the administration’s commitment, officials noted prior to Zelenskyy’s speech that Ukraine has received more than 600 Stinger anti-aircraft missiles, 2,600 Javelin anti-armor systems, unmanned aerial system tracking radars, grenade launchers and small arms weapons and ammunition, as well as tactical gear, according to the Boston Globe. The federal budget has a $13.6 billion allocation for military and humanitarian aid.
Prior to the speech, legislators had been divided about any American next steps.
“We think the United States needs to do more,” Republican Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi said after returning from a trip to Poland, according to WAPT.
Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey had said that Zelenskyy should be expected to ask for everything he wants, but “that always has to be reconciled with what’s in the national interest and security of the United States,” according to WDJT-TV.
“I do think it’s important for Ukraine to prevail in the national interest of the United States. I just don’t think a no-fly zone or direct confrontation is what’s necessary to do that,” Menendez said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said the Biden administration opposes a no-fly zone or helping Ukraine acquire more fighter jets from neighboring nations.
“I would note that [the Pentagon] said that adding aircrafts to the Ukrainian inventory is not likely to significantly change the effectiveness of the Ukrainian Air Force, relative to Russian capabilities,” Psaki said Tuesday, CNN reported. “And the assessment was that the transfer of these planes may be mistaken as escalatory, as we said, and could result in a significant Russian reaction, but that is the risk assessment that was done. That risk assessment hasn’t changed.”
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