By Janet Ekstract
NEW YORK – On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and U.S. President Joe Biden held a joint press conference after the two met in lengthy discussion about Ukraine’s security and the Biden administration’s announcement of a new $1.85 billion security package for Ukraine that includes Patriot missiles. In a formal statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken commented that new military assistance includes precision-strike capabilities, additional munitions and “critical equipment that Ukraine is using so effectively to defend itself on the battlefield.”
At the press conference, both leaders praised one another as Biden reiterated America’s stance on Ukraine: “I want you to know President Zelensky, I want you to know, the American people are with you every step of the way and we will stay with you for as long as it takes.” For his part Zelensky expressed his gratitude: “I came here to the United States to give a word of thanks to the people of America who do so much for Ukraine, this became a historic one for us.” He added: “We have started a new relation with the U.S., we became brokers and allies. I want to thank President Biden for his candid support and for the support of the international coalition to strengthen international law. I’m grateful for his steps that unite partners. When all countries of the world take the same position and focus on that, it is very useful.”
Meanwhile, Biden outlined four key areas where the U.S. is focused on working with allies in partnership. Biden said those include air defense, providing advanced artillery systems from dozens of countries along with thousands of rounds of ammunition. As Biden emphasized: “We have made the case we need to defend Ukraine,” adding, “Mr. President, you don’t have to worry, we are staying with Ukraine as long as Ukraine is there.”
Zelensky also spoke to a joint session of Congress with an introduction by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said “President Zelensky, speaking here today, will be a bright part of your legacy.” Before Zelensky’s speech, he received rousing applause and a continuous standing ovation. He made it clear that Ukraine is unafraid as Zelensky commented: “We have no fear nor should anyone in the world have it. Ukrainians gained this victory and it gives us courage which inspires the whole world.” As he thanked Congress for their financial support, he reminded them of one crucial point: “Your money is not charity. It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way.” As for Russia, Zelensky remarked: “The Russian tyranny has lost control over us. The Russians will stand a chance to be free only when they defeat the Kremlin in their minds.” The Ukrainian leader reiterated to rounds of standing ovation: “Against all odds, doom and gloom, Ukraine didn’t fall. Ukraine is alive and kicking.” Zelensky highlighted that Ukraine has been open to peace and said that he had presented his 10-point peace formula to President Biden. But as President Biden pointed out, Putin’s goal is far from peace and that it is necessary now more than ever for the U.S., its allies and partners to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capabilities.
Prior to the joint session of Congress, both Biden and Zelensky had taken questions from reporters. One specific question referred to what would a “just peace” look like to which Zelensky replied: “I don’t know what just peace is, if there is a philosophical description. Just peace is no compromises as to the sovereignty and territorial integrity for my country.” He referenced all the parents who lost sons and daughters on the frontlines. Zelensky asked: “What is just peace for them? No compensations, no reparations are of any consequence. They live for revenge which is a tragedy. The longer the war lasts, the more parents will live for this revenge, I know people like that.”
As Biden added: “We share the exact same vision, a free, independent Ukraine. We both want the war to end. Putin could end it today but that’s not going to happen. If and when President Zelensky is ready to talk with the Russians, he will be able to succeed as well because he will have won on the battlefield.” Referring to Putin, Biden added: “He thought he could break NATO. He thought he could be welcomed by the Ukrainian people. He was wrong, wrong, wrong.” When discussing peace, Biden explained: “I don’t think there’s any substitute for sitting down face-to-face with a friend or foe and looking them straight in the eye.” Biden reiterated: “Putin knows he will fail because there’s no way he will occupy Ukraine. It’s very important that Putin knows how united Zelensky and I are.”