Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made an emotional plea to the U.S. Congress on Wednesday, begging for lawmakers to invoke a no-fly zone over Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion, which began late February.
In a virtual address to members of Congress, Zelensky said “we need you right now,” invoking the attack on Pearl Harbor and the September 11 terrorist attack.
Zelensky pressured the lawmakers to supply additional military assistance to Ukraine, as the war is about to enter its fourth week.
“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,” said Zelensky through a translator at the start of his speech, which he concluded in English.
“Remember Pearl Harbor, terrible morning of December 7, 1941, when your sky was black from the planes attacking you,” Zelensky said. “Just remember it, remember, September the 11th, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn U.S. cities into battlefields, when innocent people were attacked from air, just like nobody else expected it and you could not stop it. Our country experiences the same, every day, right now at this moment.”
Zelensky’s plea for help received broad bipartisan support, with U.S. lawmakers urging increased aid to Ukraine. However, some members on both sides of the political aisle warned that America should not be drawn into a military conflict against Russia.
“Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people,” said Zelensky as he described Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian citizens. “We are asking for a reply to this terror from the whole world.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the speech “quite remarkable,” thanking fellow lawmakers for providing the assistance they already have, and praised President Biden for his continued efforts to support the beleaguered country.
“(We're) grateful that he was grateful to United States for all that we have done and what President Biden has done,” she said.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Zelensky’s remark “an incredibly effective speech,” while urging President Biden to “step up his game.”
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki informed reporters on Tuesday that America’s stance on not instituting a no-fly zone over Ukraine remains unchanged. It is unclear if Zelensky’s plea will impact the decision.
“I would note that [the Pentagon] said that adding aircrafts to the Ukrainian inventory is not likely to significantly change the effectiveness of the Ukrainian air force, relative to Russian capabilities,” Psaki said at Tuesday's news briefing. “And the assessment was that the transfer of these planes may be mistaken as escalatory, as we said, and could result in a significant Russian reaction, but that is the risk assessment that was done. That risk assessment hasn't changed.”
Biden “has to look at decisions that are made through the prism of what is in our national security interests and global security interests, and he continues to believe that a no-fly zone would be escalatory, could prompt a war with Russia,” said Psaki of the no-fly zone.
The White House confirmed on Wednesday that it will be increasing its economic support for the country in the form of an additional $800 million, and availing anti-aircraft systems and armed Switchblade drones to the country.