Will Zelensky’s impassioned plea lead to policy change?

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky address the U.S. Congress on Wednesday.

Reuters/Angerer Drew

On Wednesday, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed a joint session of the US Congress, playing to the American sense of patriotism and emotion. He evoked Martin Luther King, noting that we all know the words to his I Have a Dream speech: “Today, I can say I have a need. I need to protect the sky.”

Zelensky called for the US and NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, and he also asked Congress to push for new sanctions each week to help starve the Russian war machine.


Last week, Congress approved nearly $14 billion to go to Ukraine, and within hours of Zelensky’s speech, the Biden administration announced it would be sending an additional $800 million in military aid to Ukraine.

What more can the US do? “The American people want Biden to do more,” says Jon Lieber, Eurasia Group’s lead US political analyst. “But Biden is running into the political and practical limits of what he can do.” He’s already sanctioned the Russian economy “back to the 1990s,” and the war has led to dozens of US-based businesses pulling out of Russia.

There are two things Biden has clearly stated he will not do: facilitate the transfer of Soviet-era jets from Poland to Ukraine and impose a no-fly zone, which Biden said would risk a direct military clash with Russia. In short, he’s not risking World War III.

What about a no-fly zone? “The American people agree with the president,” says Lieber, referencing a new poll showing that only 23% of Americans support the idea of imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine (when defined as meaning that Russian planes could be shot down).

Biden’s critics have said he is letting Putin dictate the terms of US engagement in Ukraine, with Sen. Lindsay Graham accusing him of “folding like a cheap suit” over the Polish planes once they figured out that Putin would see any additional steps as an escalation.

But the US is in a bind, says Lieber: “They want to help Ukraine but are afraid of Putin, who continues to press the war in the face of near-universal international condemnation."

Check out more below from Jon Lieber’s US Politics in 60 Seconds.

Zelensky Plea for Additional Ukraine Support Puts US in a Bind | US Politics In :60 | GZERO Mediayoutu.be

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