Ukraine: Zelensky continues to stand his ground - GulfToday

Ukraine: Zelensky continues to stand his ground

Zelensky finally makes a statement on quid pro quo

Volodymyr Zelensky

It is a moot question whether Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has achieved anything more through his first visit to Washington on Wednesday that did not happen in the last 10 months of the war with Russia. A day before his arrival, Congress passed a $45 billion arms and economic package which included the new surface-to-air Patriotic missile. Zelenksy has curiously remarked at the joint press conference after his meeting with President Joe Biden at the White House that he would ask for more Patriotic missiles to fight the war. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin had said that the Patriotic missiles would not make any difference as both the sides expressed their determination to fight what they recognise to be a long-drawn war.

Interestingly, Zelensky has argued that the US arms and financial aid to Ukraine was no “charity” but that it was an “investment” for the future, to protect democracy from Russian tyranny. The US has expressed its willingness to stand by Ukraine as long as it takes. It is a proxy war for the US and it seems that they are willing to commit themselves to support Ukraine. Zelensky, like his Russian counterpart Putin, was in no mood for an end to the war which President Biden termed a “just peace”. Zelensky responded saying that Ukraine cannot compromise on a “just peace” until all the Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia through force are returned to Ukraine. The Americans have for some months been looking to push for negotiations between the two warring sides. Zelensky’s refusal to accept a negotiated end to the war, which could mean that Ukraine may have to give some of its territory, could also be interpreted as a hard bargaining position and not as a refusal to end the war on any terms. The Russians too are looking to end the war and it looks like they are struggling to find an exit gambit.

The European Union (EU) has been vociferous in its support for Ukraine though France has been cautioning against a hard stance towards Russia. French President Emmanuel Macron has made this clear on quite a few occasions though he was criticised roundly for his position.

It will indeed be a hard time for Americans to continue to support Ukraine if there is no decisive turn to the war. Republicans, especially supporters of former president Donald Trump in the party, are lukewarm in their support to Ukraine, and in their ‘America First’ enthusiasm, think that the US should not be involved in others’ war.

The Ukrainian question is crucial for the US and EU and the NATO. They do not want to yield ground on Ukraine because that might embolden Russia to stake its claim for other eastern European countries through proxy regimes, restoring the old communist bloc. Russia too is looking to retain its former sphere of influence in the east as the only way to keep NATO away from its borders.

Zelensky made an evocative gesture when he presented the battle flag of the city of Bakhmut, which is on the Russian border and where hard battles had been fought with the Russian forces. He said that the soldiers at Bakhmut asked him to present the flag to the members of the US Congress, “whose decisions can save millions of people.”  But the harsh political realities indicate that the US will have a tough time in extending military aid to Ukraine unless there is a quick result or a negotiate peace. It would be difficult to sustain a never-ending war. The war in Ukraine has fluctuated , with the Russians and Ukrainians facing setbacks. But the fact that Ukraine has not succumbed is a tribute to the determination of the Ukrainian people to fight for their country.

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