Ukrainian President Zelenskyy Invoked Historically Potent Attacks on the U.S. at Pearl Harbor and on 9/11


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday invoked historically potent attacks on the U.S. at Pearl Harbor and on Sept. 11, 2001, pleading with Congress for additional military aid as his nation fights to repel a Russian invasion.

“Ladies and gentlemen, friends, Americans, in your great history, you have pages that allow you to understand Ukrainians now,” Zelenskyy, who spoke for most of his remarks through a translator, told U.S. lawmakers. “Remember Pearl Harbor, the terrible morning of December 7, 1941, when your sky was black from the planes attacking you. Remember Sept. 11, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities independent territories into battlefield.”

“Our country experiences the same every day, right now, at this moment, every night for three weeks now.”

Zelenskyy spoke remotely via a video feed and told U.S. lawmakers that he was addressing them from Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital city that has for weeks been the target of Russian military strikes. Members of the House and Senate gathered together to hear Zelenskyy, who personally requested the opportunity to address them, in the Capitol Visitor Center’s congressional auditorium.

The Ukrainian president invoked Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech, calling again for a no-fly zone above Ukraine.

“I have a dream. These words are known to each of you today,” Zelenskyy said. “I can say, I have a need. I need to protect our sky. I need your help.”

But the Biden administration remains unwilling to go forward with one major Zelenskyy request, the implementation of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, a move the White House has said could draw NATO into a broader war with Russia. A plan to send fighter jets to Ukraine by way of a U.S. base in Germany was also scrapped over fears of escalation.

The need for a no-fly zone was emphasized by Zelenskyy multiple times. Toward the end of his remarks, he showed a 2 1/2-minute video of war footage from several Ukrainian cities. At the conclusion of the video, a black screen with white letters was shown: “Close the sky over Ukraine.”

“If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative,” Zelenskyy said, pleading for aircraft and missile defense systems. In addition, he asked for a new package of sanctions against Russia “every week” until “the Russian military machine stops.”

This was Zelesnkyy’s second meeting this month with Congress — a governing body in which the Ukrainian president enjoys wide, bipartisan respect and admiration. Around 300 lawmakers joined a private Zoom call with Zelenskyy on March 5 in which the Ukrainian leader asked for more military assistance and a ban on Russian oil. The White House and Congress have worked to meet those demands: Congress approved nearly $14 billion in military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine last week, double the original figure requested by President Joe Biden. And the U.S. has ramped up sanctions on Russian oligarchs and banks and has imposed a complete ban on Russian oil, energy and gas imports.

After delivering the bulk of his speech via a translator, Zelenskyy switched to English after the video of war footage and addressed President Joe Biden directly.

“You are the leader of your great nation,” Zelenskyy said. “I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace.”

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