On Wednesday morning, members of Congress gathered on Capital Hill to hear Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as he addressed U.S. lawmakers and President Biden. Zelenskyy proved once again he possesses powerful oratory skills as he alluded to tragic American events: Pearl Harbor and September 11. Zelenskyy also invoked Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the address. At the conclusion of his speech, Zelenskyy presented a challenge to American President Joe Biden as well.
Overall, Zelenskyy’s message to Congress was “do more.” As he has multiple times, Zelenskyy asked for the creation of a no-fly zone – something Biden and his administration has said is a non-starter – as well as additional aircraft and air defense systems. Zelenskyy also proposed creating a new security alliance, which he dubbed the “U24.”
Zelenskyy alluded to Pearl Harbor; he invoked images of the “sky (being) black after planes attacked you.” He then said, “Is this too much to ask?”
The Ukrainian president would then mention September 11, 2001. He called 9/11 a “terrible day . . . when people were attacked – attacked from the air.”
Zelenskyy then brought these comparisons around to the plight of his country. He reminded Congress and President Joe Biden that “every night for three weeks now” multiple Ukrainian cities, including Mariupol, Odesa, and Kakutani have been attacked via air strikes.
Zelenskyy said he and his country are asked for assistance and “an answer” from the entire world. Zelenskyy would also show a short video compilation of clips depicting the horrors that are going on in Ukraine. This powerful video showed injured children, a father crying over his deceased son, the damage caused by Russian strikes and shelling; along with Zelenskyy’s speech, this video illustrated just how devastating the Russian invasion has been on the Ukrainian people. At the end of the video, in English, is the phrase “close the sky over Ukraine.”
Zelenskyy certainly knows that the Biden Administration has said multiple times that the United States would never authorize a no-fly zone. However, Zelenskyy was prepared; he offered an alternative in case the answer to the no-fly zone was still negative. Zelenskyy proposed the United States providing air defense systems. Zelenskyy asked for “powerful, strong air systems,” and added, “You know that the exist and you have them, but they are on earth . . .Not in Ukraine, they do not defend our people.”
Zelenskyy also asked for new sanctions on Russia. He encouraged new sanctions on a weekly basis in order to cripple the Russian military.
As Zelenskyy built up momentum in his speech, he alluded to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Zelenskyy said: “I have a dream. These words are known to each of you. Today, I can say I have a need. A need to protect our sky. I need your decision, your help. The same you feel when you hear the words, I have a dream.”
Zelenskyy concluded his speech in English, and he particularly addressed President Joe Biden in this. In fact, it appears that Zelenskyy challenged Biden. He began by saying being the leader of the free world is to “be the leader of peace.” Zelenskyy said that peace does not only depend on one leader, but that it depends on other leaders who are strong. He said strong means being willing to fight for human rights and freedoms all over the world. Zelenskyy added that Ukrainians are fighting not only for themselves, but for freedom all over the world. The Ukrainian president mentioned the nearly 100 children who have died during the Russian invasion.
To conclude his speech, Zelenskyy looked into the camera and said, “I’m addressing President Biden. You are the leader of the nation . . .I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the wold means to be the leader of peace.” After thanking Congress, Zelenskyy then concluded as he normally does: “Glory to Ukraine.”
President Biden will address Zelenskyy’s remarks later on Wednesday.
Republicans responded by saying in a press conference afterwards, “He’s only asked for help all along. Don’t let us fight with sticks.” Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), and Steve Scalise (-LA) all addressed the press with remarks immediately after Zelenskyy’s speech.