By Marco Levytsky, Editorial Writer.
Accompanied by his wife Olena, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy last week conducted a whirlwind tour of Canada and the United States designed to shore up support in the face of increasing “Ukraine fatigue” and to deliver a very clear message both to Ukraine’s allies and to the world as a whole. Very simply put – there is only one possible outcome to the war Russian has inflicted on Ukraine – and that is a complete Ukrainian victory that drives Russian troops out of Ukraine once and for all.
He opened his tour in New York with a speech to the General Assembly of the United Nations in which he pointed out that while the world concentrated on the nuclear threat Russia posed, Moscow has weaponized such essentials as food and energy.
“Since the start of the full-scale war, the Ukrainian ports in the Black and Azov Seas have been blocked by Russia… Russia is launching the food prices as weapons. The impact spans from the Atlantic coast of Africa to the Southeast Asia,” Zelenskyy stated.
On the energy front, Russia first weaponized oil and gas, then graduated to nuclear energy itself. “Look what Russia did to our Zaporizhzhia power plant – shelled it, occupied it and now blackmails others with radiation leaks. Is there any sense to reduce nuclear weapons when Russia is weaponizing nuclear power plants? Scary question.”
The third and most insidious example he brought up is the mass kidnapping of Ukrainian children who are then “taught to hate Ukraine, and all ties with their families are broken… This is clearly a genocide.”
“When hatred is weaponised against one nation, it never stops there,” he continued.
“Each decade Russia starts a new war. Parts of Moldova and Georgia remain occupied. Russia turned Syria into ruins. And if not Russia, the chemical weapons would have never been used there in Syria. Russia has almost swallowed Belarus. It is obviously threatening Kazakhstan and the Baltic states… And the goal of the present war against Ukraine is to turn our land, our people, our resources into a weapon against you – against the international rules-based order.”
From New York it was on to Washington where he met with President Joe Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and other officials. Biden announced an additional $325 million in military aid, air defense capabilities, cluster munitions, anti-tank weapons and other equipment. The long-range Army Tactical Missile Systems (ATACMS) Zelenskyy requested were not included in that package, but, according to The Washington Post, the Biden administration plans to provide Ukraine with a version of ATACMS armed with cluster bomblets rather than a single warhead.
Zelenskyy also met with about 70 senators and a few Members of the House of Representatives but was denied the opportunity to address a joint session of the House and Senate by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy who offered the lame excuse that the chamber didn’t “have time” for a joint session. He added insult to injury by refusing to appear publicly with Zelensky – though he did have his picture taken with him in a closed-door meeting, during which he had the audacity to grill Zelenskyy on his “plan for victory”. That plan is obvious – to drive out the Russians. But to do that Ukraine needs more weapons. Critics complain that the counteroffensive is going slowly. But why is that? That’s because of all the delays Ukraine had to endure in getting weapons from the West. All this just gave the Russians more time to shore up defences and saturate the fields with land mines making any progress an arduous and very costly process in terms of human life.
Clearly McCarthy is trying to placate the Yahoo wing of his party which wants to stop all aid to Ukraine. They are even threatening to hold up a $24 billion package for Ukraine Biden has allocated in his budget. The MAGA Republicans claim the U.S. can’t afford to spend money on aid to Ukraine but, the fact is U.S. military aid to Ukraine amounts to only five percent of the total defense budget and, what’s more, most of it is spent in the United States on modernizing US weaponry as older equipment is sent to Ukraine — and that modernization is vital to beefing up U.S. defenses.
It was a much different story in Canada as Zelenskyy’s speech to both chambers of Parliament was greeted with more than a dozen standing ovations. Unlike the U.S., support for Ukraine in Canada’s parliament crosses all party lines.
Zelenskyy opened by noting that the first monument anywhere in the world to commemorate the victims of the Holodomor was unveiled in Edmonton in 1983 and thanked Canada for all the support it has given Ukraine.
“But there is something that has not changed either in 40 years since the monument in Edmonton was built or in 90 years since the Holodomor. Moscow now as always is bent on controlling Ukraine and makes use of all available means to do that including genocide.
“It is genocide – what Russian occupiers are doing to Ukraine. And when we want to win, when we call-on the world to support us, it is not just about an ordinary conflict. It is about saving lives of millions of people,” he stated.
“This Russian aggression must end with our victory, so that Russia will never bring back genocide to Ukraine and will never even try to do so. Moscow must lose – once and for all. And it will lose!” Zelenskyy added.
He closed his speech with an Inuktitut word he learned from Governor General Mary Simon. “She taught me a word from her mother tongue – ‘ajuinata’. She said the meaning of this word is – don’t give-up, stay strong against all odds. And so shall it be… Ajuinata Canada! Ajuinata Ukraine!”
While our community greatly appreciates the support Canada is giving to Ukraine and especially the pledge to continue it as long as it takes, we must admit that Canada’s resources are limited – especially when it comes to armaments. However, Canada has a well-deserved reputation as an “honest broker” where international affairs are concerned and must use its diplomatic influence to combat “Ukraine fatigue” and urge other nations to maintain support for Ukraine. This is a war in which the battle between authoritarianism and democracy, between imperialism and self-determination, between good and evil itself, could not be any clearer. As Zelenskyy noted, you can either support Ukraine or Russia. There is no middle ground.