Zelensky Puts Ukraine's Fight in Historically American Terms

Address to joint session to Congress sets the stakes and expresses gratitude
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 21, 2022 8:10 PM CST
Zelensky Puts Ukraine's Fight in Historically American Terms
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky arrives to address a joint session of Congress on Wednesday.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed a joint session of Congress on Wednesday night, thanking "every American" for supporting the fight against Russia's invasion while likening his nation's struggle to past US battles to ensure independence. Despite being under attack for 10 months, Zelensky said in a speech delivered in English that Ukraine is "alive and kicking," the Washington Post reports. In an appearance already evocative of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill's wartime address to Congress in December 1941, Zelensky assured his audience that Ukraine will "never surrender." Lawmakers, including GOP congressional leaders, loudly cheered Zelensky's remarks, but not all Republicans attended. Zelensky discussed:

  • US-provided arms: "We have artillery, yes, thank you," he said, per the New York Times. "Is it enough? Not really." Congressional laughter followed.
  • The stakes: Unless Russia is stopped in Ukraine, it could attack other US allies in Europe, Zelensky warned. It's a position also held by many US and independent analysts. "Your money is not charity," Zelensky said. "It's an investment."
  • Battle of the Bulge: "Just like the brave American soldiers, which held their lines and fought back Hitler's forces during the Christmas of 1944, brave Ukrainian soldiers are doing this same to Putin's forces this Christmas—Ukraine holds its lines and will never surrender," Zelensky said, per the Wall Street Journal. He also referred to a Revolutionary War battle that was pivotal in defeating the British. "Just like the Battle of Saratoga, the fight for Bakhmut will change the tragic story of our war for independence and of freedom," he said.
  • "A just peace": Zelensky pushed back against President Biden's earlier reference to achieving a "just peace," saying, "For me as a president, 'just peace' is no compromises." The war will end, he said, when his nation's sovereignty, freedom, and territorial integrity were restored, per the AP. "There can't be any 'just peace' in the war that was imposed on us," he said.
  • Giving thanks: Zelensky said earlier when meeting with President Biden that he was conveying his nation's gratitude not just to lawmakers for weapons but to all Americans. That includes, he said in his speech, "cities and citizens who supported Ukraine this year, who hosted our Ukrainians."

Zelensky found a supportive audience. "The most important thing going on in the world is to beat the Russians in Ukraine," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said afterward. "Fortunately they have a leader that everyone can look up to and admire." Zelensky brought a Ukrainian flag, signed by soldiers engaged in the war, that he presented to his hosts. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave Zelensky an American flag that flew over the Capitol earlier in the day. As his speech ended, a delegation sitting above chanted in Ukrainian, then shouted, "God Bless America." (Read more Volodymyr Zelensky stories.)

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