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Zelenskyy Applies Funding Pressure On Washington By Announcing Visit

We need honest answers to simple questions before the funding bill is approved.

Photo: The White House

Ukraine’s pressure tactics have thwarted open dialogue within the United States
Congress must hold a vigorous debate before approving additional funding for Ukraine

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will visit Washington next week - so said a breaking news headline in the New York Times this week.

For most Americans deeply concerned about the Ukraine war and its unknown aftermath, the news was neither unexpected nor was it breaking.  

A highly skilled politician, Zelenskyy has been the star draw in world capitals for at least six months. Western leaders who face skepticism at home can treat themselves to photo opportunities with a historical figure and, by listening to Zelenskyy's eloquent pleas for help, can hope to neutralize political opposition in their districts. In return, Zelenskyy mops up commitments to receive more military and financial aid.

President Biden attends a G7 leaders session on Ukraine with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, Sunday, May 21, 2023 in Hiroshima, Japan. (Official Photo by Adam Schultz)

The world appreciates and respects the brave fortitude of the men and women fighting in Ukraine. President Zelenskyy often emphasizes this point to assure Western leaders that Ukraine is fighting on their behalf to safeguard global democracy, but many Americans find the Ukrainian government's pressure tactics unwarranted.

Any criticism of Ukraine is instantly met with a torrent of rebukes in Kyiv. The suppression has been so effective that Nation Magazine used an unusual term recently, previously reserved for LGBTQ members when they faced discrimination - "coming out of a closet." In its "Advocates for Negotiations to End the Ukraine War Need to Come Out of the Closet" piece, the magazine said that there's evidence that the taboo on negotiations might finally be weakening.

It is extraordinary that people who advocate for peace in a conflict that could trigger World War III should be quarantined in a closet like the plague has hit them. Even people who make aspirational mentions of a peace deal will be canceled or severely criticized. The message is clear: The world must support Ukraine on Ukraine's terms - any other idea risks being branded as belonging to a group of pro-Putin sympathizers.  

Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who, along with former President George W. Bush and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, developed warm relations with President Putin when Russia was a member of the G8, experienced this first-hand last month. The New York Times reported that Sarkozy called reversing Russia's annexation of Crimea “illusory.” Sarkozy also ruled out Ukraine joining the European Union or NATO because it must remain "neutral" and insisted that Russia and France "need each other."

Rather than be open to comments from a senior statesman who was once the head of state of a country that continues to pump billions in aid to Ukraine, Sarkozy's comments "provoked outrage" from the Ukrainian ambassador to France. Sarkozy's comments were reasonable:

  • Given how the counteroffensive is failing, is it realistic for Ukraine to evict Russia from Crimea?
  • France and Russia have traded for centuries - why shouldn't they need each other anymore?
  • Why shouldn't a former president of France be concerned about the rising living costs for his fellow citizens, most of which can be traced to Russian sanctions?
  • When French companies were forced to withdraw from Russia, how many employees were affected?

The Biden administration is pushing for an emergency bill to send $24 billion to Ukraine - on top of the $46 billion passed during the dying moments of the Democratic-led House last December. Zelenskyy is visiting to help cement that package. But, no, we do not want Congress to rubber-stamp yet another funding request. Instead, we should have a vigorous debate on the House floor after the country has heard testimonies from experts who have been critical of the war, such as John Mearsheimer and Col. Doug McGregor.

We need honest answers to simple questions before the funding bill is approved. Why are we prosecuting an "as long as it takes" war? How long is “as long?” One year? Two years? Ten years? What are the realistic end goals here? For world peace, why shouldn't Ukraine be neutral? How much responsibility does the West bear for triggering and prolonging the war?  How much more destruction - the dead, the wounded, the refugee resettlements, sky-high fuel prices, food shortages - should the world have to bear before peace talks are initiated?

At every turn, Zelenskyy is fond of saying that Ukraine is fighting Russia to save world democracy. Shouldn't Ukraine also allow for a democratic debate in the People's House, especially when Kyiv depends on U.S. funding at a time when America's debt levels are exploding and there are significant priorities at home? 

Welcome to Washington, President Zelenskyy. But this time, please be open to other constructive ideas. Because for 19 months, your ideas leave much to be desired.

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