A significant development in the Russia-Ukraine war raging since 24 February 2022 is the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s recent visit to Washington. Predictably, Russia has branded the exchanges between Zelenskyy and US President Joe Biden as an exercise in perpetuating war rather than a peace initiative. Moscow has complained that no calls for peace were heard during the engagement and termed the US involvement as “a proxy war with Russia.” Maria Zakharova, Russia’s foreign ministry spokesperson, categorically stated that the talks in Washington showed that neither Ukraine nor the United States was seeking peace. “They are simply intent on continuing the fighting,” she said.
To quote an opinion piece published in The Washington Post last week: “The US aid to Ukraine is helping to degrade an enemy military without the death of a single American in uniform.”
Now the question is whether Russia has any moral authority to talk about peace when it initiated the invasion of Ukraine in a brazen manner and has been pounding cities and villages with bombs, artillery and missiles, killing thousands of innocent civilians and military personnel. According to one estimate, Ukraine and Russia have together lost over 20,000 soldiers, while the civilian casualty of Ukraine is put at about 40,000. Besides, over 14 million Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes.
The reason for Russia humming the tune of peace is the latest announcement of President Biden coinciding with Zelenskyy’s visit that the US will arm Ukraine with its Patriot missiles to strengthen the latter’s war efforts against Russia. This is certainly not music to Russia’s ears, since the Patriot system, when made available to Ukraine, will dramatically change the complexion of the aerial conflict. The nervousness of Russia at that prospect is apparent in Putin’s Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov’s response, despite the bravado, that delivering Patriot missiles would not prevent Russia from “achieving its goals during the special military operation.”
Zelenskyy’s visit seems to have rattled Russia since this was the first time he made a foreign trip after having told the world soon after the war broke out that he would not leave his country where he was needed most by his countrymen. The fact that he was at last in a position to move out of his country shows Ukraine has effectively repulsed the advances made by Russia with the help of arms and ammunition provided by the US and its Western allies.
Zelenskyy is now scouting for larger military hardware and money to drive out the Russians from the soil of his country. For this the Russian media has been cracking jokes describing him as a beggar going to the US with a begging bowl. That itself betrays frustration and nervousness on the part of the Russian state. As if to rub salt into Russia’s wounds, Biden has announced his administration would stand by Ukraine “as long as it takes.”
America’s resolve to help Ukraine against Russia shows it has come out of the initial reluctance to provoke Russia into direct confrontation by siding with Ukraine. It appears Zelenskyy has achieved his major objective of rallying Washington behind him since his address in the US Congress drew lusty applause from majority of Democrats and Republicans, though some Republicans did refrain from clapping. Zelenskyy is hopeful that he would get American funding for the war despite the Republicans having more numbers in the Congress than the Democrats.
The US has already spent more than $48 billion on humanitarian, financial and military support to Ukraine. Another $2 billion in military aid was announced during the visit. The administration is also considering another aid package worth almost $45 billion through Congress before the Republicans take over the House of Representatives in January.
Russia is readying itself for a fresh ground assault, perhaps during winter, as reports suggest. Ukraine, armed with US arsenal, is expected to launch a spirited counterattack. America’s efforts seem not simply to help Ukraine, but also to have a big say in the outcome of the war between Russia and Ukraine. Some experts are comparing Zelenskyy’s US visit to that of Winston Churchill to Washington after Pearl Harbor in 1941. Churchill’s visit marked the US’ involvement in taking charge of the Allied cause in Europe. History, according to some, is on the threshold of repeating itself.
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