Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy used timeless values and modern media in his virtual speech to Congress on Wednesday. Both were effective. But the most compelling component of his presentation was the president himself — a true wartime leader who is willing to marshal, and possibly die for, his country.
Zelenskyy knows not only Ukraine’s history but America’s as well. Evoking Pearl Harbor and 9/11 — “our country experiences the same things every day right now” — he appealed to America’s identity as an indispensable nation. And just in case anyone, including President Joe Biden, needed a reminder, Zelenskyy spoke directly to the U.S. president when he said, “I see you as the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means being the leader of peace.”
In this case, peace doesn’t mean pacifism. It means self-defense, and Biden and Congress deserve and received credit from Zelenskyy for the military and diplomatic support Biden has been instrumental in generating from European and Pacific allies. The severe sanctions have real teeth, and Zelenskyy asked for the bite to go deeper, including sanctioning Russian politicians and asking U.S. companies to immediately leave a Russian market that is “flooded with our blood.”