Zelensky to America: Our Fight Is Your Fight
“Your money is not charity," the Ukrainian president said, but "an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.”
Dressed in a modest military-green pullover, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived at the joint session of Congress to sustained, standing applause. His message to Congress and to the American people: Thank you; do more; our fight is your fight; and most importantly, “Ukraine will never surrender.”
In his address, Zelenskyy drew a parallel between Ukraine’s plight and the American colonies’ fight for independence.
“Your well-being is the product of your national security. The result of your struggle for independence and your many victories,” he said. “We Ukrainians will also go through our war of independence and freedom with dignity and success.”
Earlier in the day, Zelenskyy held a joint press conference with U.S. President Joe Biden, who announced a new package of weapons and aid worth nearly $1.8 billion, including a Patriot air-defense battery, which the Ukainians had long sought.
But Biden faced pressure today from both sides. Some Republican lawmakers took aim at Washington’s aid for Ukraine, while a Ukrainian reporter asked why there was still reluctance to send the longer-range ATACMS missiles that Kyiv has been asking for since February. Since the U.S. was now sending Patriots, the reporter suggested, shouldn’t ATACMS follow?
Biden turned to Zelenskyy and dryly offered, “His answer is yes.”
To which Zelenskyy answered, “I agree.”
But Biden signaled that he was still reluctant to hand over ATACMS missiles, whose 185-mile range could allow Ukraine to strike targets deeper within Russia.
Administration officials, who are routinely asked about ATACMS, generally dodge the question and list other items that the United States has given.
Today Biden offered a bit more detail about why he has not budged: a fear of alienating Ukraine’s allies.
“There's an entire alliance that is critical to stay with Ukraine. And the idea that we would give Ukraine material that is of fundamentally different than is already going there [sic] would have a prospect of breaking up NATO and breaking up the European Union and the rest of the world. We're gonna give Ukraine what it needs to be able to defend itself, to be able to succeed…on the battlefield,” he said.
Biden contrasted that with the Patriot system, which he called a “defensive system…not escalatory.”
Zelenskyy, next to him, didn’t hide the fact that as generous as the United States and allies have been, Ukraine would need more to defeat Russia.
“What's going to happen after Patriots are installed? After that, we will send another signal to President Biden that we would like to get more Patriots,” he said.
In addition to the Patriot battery, the package announced today includes GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions, or JDAMs; High-speed Anti-Radiation Missiles, or HARMs; some 500 precision-guided 155mm artillery rounds; and a variety of other munitions and pieces of equipment such as satellite terminals.
Last night, in a phone call with reporters, a senior administration official said the new omnibus spending bill for 2023 contains an additional $40 billion in aid for Ukraine.
Zelenskyy today answered some of the skepticism about how Ukraine is spending aid: “Your money is not charity. [It is] an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.”
The Ukrainian president’s first visit to the United States since the start of the war provided a stark contrast to Zelenskyy’s 2019 meeting with thenPresident Trump, which took place after revelations that the U.S. president had attempted to pressure his Ukrainian counterpart to refute intelligence-community findings on Russia and to announce investigations into the Biden family.
Today, during the joint press conference, Zelenskyy took a moment to address the American people, whom, he said, had values similar to those of Ukrainians.
“What I can wish you…to be together with us, jointly, because we really fight for our common victory against this tyranny,” he said. “And we will win.”