5 takeaways from Volodymyr Zelensky’s historic visit to Washington

(CNN) — Three hundred days after Russia invaded his country, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to Washington to discuss what the next 300 days might bring.

Shrouded in secrecy until the last minute, the historic visit It was laden with symbolism, from Zelensky’s drab green sweatshirt to President Joe Biden’s blue-and-yellow striped tie to the Ukrainian war flag unfurled inside Congress.

Zelensky thanked the financial aid for Ukraine before the Congress 1:33

But the trip was much more than symbols. Biden would not invite Zelensky to Washington, nor would he endure a risky trip out of Ukraine for the first time since the war began, if he did not believe that anything real could be accomplished by meeting face to face rather than over the phone.

To leave from their conversationsBoth men have made it clear that they see the war entering a new phase. As Russia sends more troops to the front lines and wages a brutal air campaign against civilian targets, fears of a stalemate are growing.

However, when Zelensky left Washington for a long and equally risky journey back to Ukraine, it was not clear if the path to ending the conflict was clearer.

Biden and Zelensky try to figure out how to end the war

Zelensky criticizes Russian forces before the United States Congress 1:16

Gaining clarity on Zelensky’s position when it comes to ending the war was one of the prerogatives of bringing him to the White House. The Ukrainian leader had previously expressed a desire for a “just peace” ending the conflict, a point US officials said would be at the center of their talks on Wednesday.

But on Wednesday, Zelensky used bellicose rhetoric that suggested such a peace was not near, saying the path to ending the war would not involve making concessions to Russia.

“For me, as president, ‘just peace’ does not mean compromises,” he said, indicating that he saw no path to peace that would involve Ukraine relinquishing territory or sovereignty.

Later, in his speech to Congress, Zelensky said that he had filed a 10 point peace formula to Biden, though US officials later said it was the same plan he offered to world leaders at the G20 summit last month.

Among the Western nations that have rallied to support Zelensky, there have been lingering concerns about what the Ukrainian leader’s long-term plan might be.

For his part, Biden said it was up to Zelensky to “decide how he wants the war to end,” a long-standing view that leaves many questions unanswered.

Zelensky proves he knows his audience… and shows off his showmanship

A Ukrainian flag signed by his troops, the gift of Zelensky 0:40

Zelensky filled his address to lawmakers with references to American history, from the critical Battle of Saratoga during the American Revolutionary War to the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.

He delivered his speech in English, a decided choice that he telegraphed before the speech. Even his outfit, the now-familiar army green camisole, cargo pants, and boots, seemed designed to remind his audience that they were in the presence of a wartime leader.

Over the course of the conflict, Zelensky has shown great skill in engaging his audience, be it national legislatures or the Grammy audience.

On Wednesday, he sought to tap into Americans’ emotional response to their country’s suffering, evoking dark winter nights as Russia seeks to cut off Ukraine’s power supply.

“In two days we will celebrate Christmas. Maybe by candlelight. Not because it’s more romantic, no, but because there won’t be, there won’t be electricity,” he said.

But he also seemed aware that many Americans, including some Republicans in Congress, have wondered aloud why billions of US dollars are needed for a conflict thousands of miles away. He tried to push the cause beyond his own homeland.

“The battle is not only for the lives, freedom and security of Ukrainians or any other nation that Russia is trying to conquer,” he said. “The struggle will define the world in which our children and grandchildren will live.”

He added: “Your money is not charity. It is an investment in global security and democracy that we manage in the most responsible way.”

Zelensky finally accepts the ride he was offered… and also gets the ammunition

At the start of Russia’s war in the Ukraine, Zelensky turned down an American offer to evacuate him from Kyiv.

“I need ammunition, not a ride,” Zelensky told the US.

Ten months later, he got both. When Zelensky landed outside Washington on a US military plane on Wednesday, his arrival capped a 10-day rush by US and Ukrainian officials to stage a risky wartime visit aimed at rallying support for Ukraine’s ongoing resistance. to the invasion of Russia.

Just before Zelensky’s arrival, the Biden administration announced it will send nearly $2 billion in additional security assistance to Ukraine, including a sophisticated new air defense system. patriot that Zelensky has been requesting for months.

When considering a visit, Zelensky suggested to his advisers that he did not want to travel to Washington unless there was a significant development in the bilateral relationship with the United States, according to a source familiar with the matter. Zelensky saw the US decision to send a Patriot missile defense system to Ukraine as a major change in the relationship between the two allies.

Standing next to Biden, however, he was outspoken that he didn’t see a single Patriot system as enough.

“We would like to have more Patriots,” he said as Biden laughed. “I’m sorry, but we are at war.”

A united front in one of the most complicated relationships in the world

Expert: War in Ukraine is a threat to Europe 2:44

Speaking later before Congress, Zelensky was again outspoken in saying that he did not believe American support was enough.

“Is it enough? Honestly, not really,” he said of the artillery the US has provided so far.

Zelensky’s heartfelt plea for more Patriots, and Biden’s joyful response, provided a window into one of the world’s most complicated relationships.

On the surface, Biden and Zelensky have maintained a stalwart partnership. And Zelensky was effusive in his praise of Biden as he made his way from the Oval Office to the East Room and the Capitol.

However, it doesn’t take much to see the stresses below the surface. Zelensky has consistently requested additional support from the United States, despite the tens of billions of dollars in military assistance that Biden has directed to his country.

That hasn’t always sat well with Biden or his team. But as he has done with many other foreign leaders, Biden seemed determined Wednesday to translate physical proximity into a better understanding of his counterpart.

“It’s about looking someone in the eye. I mean it sincerely. I don’t think there is any substitute for sitting face to face with a friend or a foe and looking them in the eye,” she said.

A visit that symbolizes a ‘new phase’ in the war

Biden to Zelensky: We will continue with you as long as it takes 5:05

Biden invited Zelensky to Washington this week because he believes the war in Ukraine is entering a “new phase,” officials said before the visit. As winter approaches and Russia continues to attack civilian infrastructure, the time seemed ripe for Zelensky to make a dramatic public appeal for continued international support.

However, the new phase is not only on the battlefield. Around the world, leaders are facing the bitter consequences of Russia’s invasion. Higher energy and food prices, partly triggered by tough sanctions on Moscow, have caused problems for politicians in Europe and the United States.

In Washington, Republicans, poised to seize control of Congress, have made it clear that they will not approve every single one of Biden’s requests for Ukraine assistance, though fears that the funds will dry up completely appear unfounded. Congress is about to approve nearly $50 billion in additional security and economic assistance.

Speaking to lawmakers, Zelensky repeatedly referred to members of “both parties,” seeking to frame his cause as bipartisan.

Still, some Republicans refused to attend Zelensky’s speech to Congress, protesting what they say is unrestricted dollars leaving the US.

Against that backdrop, Biden insisted that US support would continue for months.

He said it was “important to the American people and to the world to hear directly from you, Mr. President, about the Ukraine fight and the need to stick together until 2023.”

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