Not only withdrawal from all Ukrainian territories, including Crimea, but also reparations; the peace terms dictated by Kyiv have also become Washington’s terms.
Joe Biden’s hesitation lasted but two seconds, before one can say “negotiation.” A moment later, the U.S. president realized that the word “negotiation” was not appropriate in the company of the heroic Ukrainian president.
At a press conference after meeting with Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday night, Biden added only that America would stand by Ukraine’s side “as long as necessary.” He warned that it will be necessary to go through the difficult year 2023 together, thus making it clear that he does not expect peace in the coming 12 months. And when asked why he did not immediately hand over all the weapons that the Ukrainians expect, particularly long-range missile launchers, rather than relying on the rational argument that he could not risk a direct confrontation between the U.S. and Russia, Biden preferred to explain away the fears of European allies who are much more vulnerable to Russian reprisals.
The Ukrainian president knew perfectly well why he was going to Washington and was well prepared for this visit. And while at the White House and in Congress, he gave the best performance of his life.
Seeing the reaction, Zelenskyy went a step further. It is generally assumed that the longer the war lasts, the wearier Western societies become and the harder they push politicians to compromise with the Kremlin. But the Ukrainian leader reversed this reasoning. He pointed out that each Ukrainian soldier that is killed fuels the desire for revenge in society and eliminates territorial concessions.
In the run-up to the 2024 presidential election in which Biden will face the stakes of preventing Donald Trump’s return and saving American democracy, Zelenskyy cleverly linked that agenda to the war in Europe. He said aid to Ukraine was an investment in global democracy, not charity. And he made the point that the free world had won its first victory — the favor of world opinion.
How long this fascination with Ukrainian heroism will last in the U.S. remains to be seen. But the very fact that after so many months the war is still conquering the hearts of Americans — despite high prices and thwarted U.S. economic growth — is one of Vladimir Putin’s most bitter defeats.
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