Zelensky faces prospect of stalemate upon return to Ukraine
By Victoria Kim
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine wrapped up his first trip abroad since Russia’s invasion began 10 months ago, returning home after having delivered a stirring plea to U.S. lawmakers for additional military aid to help turn the tide of battle.
The reality he returns to after a hero’s welcome in Washington, D.C., where he was greeted with standing ovations and a pledge from President Joe Biden to stand with Ukraine for “as long as it takes,” is a frigid winter and the prospect that the war will grind to a costly stalemate.
On Wednesday, he sought to bring the sounds and smells of the war’s front lines to the decision makers in Congress, who he said had the ability to speed up Ukraine’s victory and bring the war to an end.
“Every inch of that land is soaked in blood; roaring guns sound every hour,” he said of Bakhmut in the country’s east, where his army is holding ground in one of the bloodiest campaigns of the war. “The Russians’ tactic is primitive. They burn down and destroy everything they see.”
If his appeal changed any minds in the capitol, it wasn’t immediately apparent. On Wednesday evening, the passage of the U.S. spending bill, with nearly $50 billion in assistance for Ukraine, ground to a halt when senators left for the night without holding a vote. Some Republican lawmakers have been vocal about their opposition to sending more money abroad.
Zelenskyy takes home with him at least one significantboost from the United States: an additional $1.8 billion in military aid announced Wednesday including a Patriot missile battery, one of the most advanced air defense systems. The Patriot will help shore up Ukraine’s ability to counter the missiles and drones that Russia fires at the nation’s energy infrastructure, deepening the suffering of civilians as temperatures dip during the winter.
“If your Patriots stop the Russian terror against our cities, it will let Ukrainian patriots work to the full to defend our freedom,” he said in his speech. “When Russia cannot reach our cities by its artillery, it tries to destroy them with missile attacks.”
The trip, a risky gambit coordinated in stealth, was also a projection of strength and confidence amid the daily blare of air raid sirens from Russian attacks and constant power outages. Ukrainian officials cheered on their president’s speech and expressed hopes it would make a difference.
“Each word was charged with Ukraine’s overwhelming energy and spirit,” the country’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, wrote on Twitter. “May it inspire millions of people in the U.S. and around the globe to protect what we all hold dear: freedom.”