Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech to Congress was a plea to history

Urging U.S. lawmakers “we need you right now,” the embattled leader showed the devastating cost of war on his nation.

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 16: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivers a virtual address to Con...
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Speaking directly to congressional lawmakers in an impassioned address comparing his country’s plight to some of the most infamous days in American history, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded for more U.S. support to help counter Russia’s ongoing invasion of imperialist expansion.

“Friends, Americans, in your great history, you have pages that would allow you to understand Ukrainians, understand us now, when we need you right now,” he began in Ukrainian, before switching to English for other portions of his speech.

Calling Russia’s invasion “the worst war since World War II” in Europe, and citing the attacks on Pearl Harbor and 9/11, Zelensky’s address marked the latest in his ongoing effort to rally the world — and in particular, the United States — to Ukraine’s cause, framing it in terms of existential finality.

“Right now the destiny of our country is being decided,” Zelensky intoned at one point, between requests for deeper economic sanctions against Russia, as well as further military hardware from the U.S., including air defense systems and planes to counteract Russian bombardments on Ukrainian cities. Zelensky also reiterated his demand for a NATO-instituted no-fly zone over his country, invoking Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech by saying “I have a need” for a no-fly zone. The U.S. and NATO command have so far rejected the proposal as representing a significant risk for escalation into all-out war with Russia.

Zelensky also used the address to speak directly to President Biden, who is scheduled to travel to Europe for a NATO summit on the Russian invasion next week, saying, “You are the leader of the nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world.”

Urging lawmakers to look inward at their districts and states for ways their constituent companies can aid Ukraine, Zelensky ended his address by sharing a graphic video montage of the devastation leveled against his country by sustained Russian bombardment over the past week, prompting some congressional viewers to stifle tears as they watched.

While Zelensky’s address was met with near universal acclaim by its congressional targets, it remains unclear what the United States will do next to support Ukraine in its fight for freedom.