Republicans sat defiantly while all around rose in acclaim – as Ukraine hopes aid continues

US News

Into a buttoned-up, power-dressed chamber of US politicians entered the man of war.

Wearing khaki and a look of polite exhaustion, Volodymyr Zelenskyy received the adulation of a man fighting their fight as much as his own.

That was certainly the message he carried into the well of the House chamber, an appeal from the heart of the battle that relayed the reality of suffering in his country.

It earned him repeated standing ovations – not, however, from all.

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Cameras picked out Republican representatives who sat defiantly while all around them rose in acclaim. It was a picture that spoke to scepticism surrounding continued aid to Ukraine.

Their guest is aware – hence the necessity he felt to ram home the point that, in an inter-connected world, tyranny would not stop at Ukraine.

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Standing ovation for Zelenskyy

American support, he said, isn’t charity but an investment.

More on Ukraine

He can only hope that Republicans carry the message into the New Year when they take control of the House of Representatives.

His sentiments were certainly shared by the vast majority of his hosts and, for the absence of doubt, there was accompanying text.

It came in a letter to colleagues from Nancy Pelosi in the hours before President Zelenskyy addressed the joint session of Congress.

The outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives wrote of an occasion “fraught with meaning” for her because her father had been a member of the House when Winston Churchill addressed a joint session of Congress in 1941, during the Second World War.

Two wartime leaders addressing Congress in wartime – to draw parallels was to sharpen perspectives.

The warnings around a conflict and its consequences were echoed by US President Biden, too.

In the White House meeting between the pair, the new pals performed like old pals.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy listens as President Joe Biden speaks during a news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

It is a relationship cemented by mutual interest and a joint news conference exuded chemistry and good humour.

They have bonded over a shared struggle – Ukraine’s war/America’s war by proxy.

Mr Biden’s pledge on Patriot missiles is a calculated call, an escalation in US involvement and yet one that won’t change the rules of engagement for the United States.

He will have enjoyed listening to Mr Zelenskyy state that it is US weapons he needs, not the American personnel to operate them.

If President Biden is to make a bid to remain in post at the 2024 election – his decision is expected early next year – then the way in which the Ukrainian conflict plays out will define his chances, if not his presidency overall.

US support is driven, of course, by a moral imperative to support Ukraine and its people. There is also the small matter of the geopolitical dividend – a Russia weakened is an America enhanced.

And a Russia weakened by US-led strategy is an America further empowered.

This visit gave Volodymyr Zelenskyy a prime-time profile, but he wasn’t the only player.

So goes the politics of war.

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