Analysis: Two Pardee Faculty React to Zelensky’s Speech before Congress
The best way to proceed now is to build a peace step by step to reduce the risks of further escalation
Analysis: Two Pardee Faculty React to Zelensky’s Speech before Congress
Assessing the options now open to Biden and the American people
POV: Following Zelensky’s Address to Congress, Diplomacy Remains the Only Option in Ukraine
The best way to proceed now is to build a peace step-by-step to reduce the risks of further escalation
By Vesko Garčević
“You are the leader of your nation. I wish you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace!” These were the words with which Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky concluded his virtual address to the US Congress on Wednesday. Much of his speech was delivered in Ukrainian, but the final points were made in English.
With a powerful, and at moments emotional, statement, the Ukrainian president again confirmed that he had a firm grasp on how to present his nation’s case to a foreign audience. Speaking to the British Parliament several days ago, he referenced Winston Churchill, Great Britain’s prime minister during World War II. In his address to the Americans, Zelensky compared Russian air raids and shelling of Ukrainian cities to Pearl Harbor and the September 11 terrorist attacks.
He referred to the monument to US presidents at Mount Rushmore and the “I Have a Dream” speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59), saying that his dream is to have “a free and peaceful sky above Ukraine,” stating that Ukrainians are not fighting only for their freedom, but also “for the values of Europe and the world.” His plea for the United States and NATO to “close the sky” to Russian strikes was illustrated by graphic images of ruined Ukrainian cities, the suffering of ordinary citizens, and dead and injured children.
Indeed, Zelensky made it difficult for the United States and its allies to say no to his appeals. However, once the curtain has fallen, the question remains whether the United States can do more to help Ukraine, and if the answer is yes, what can it do?
Despite Texas Republican Congressman Michael McCaul’s appealing statement that “a lot of the members were in tears watching Zelensky’s address,” a number of factors determine the scope of the US involvement in the crisis. Most important, Ukraine is a NATO partner, but not a NATO member. The principle of collective defense as stipulated in Article 5 of the Washington [NATO] treaty doesn’t apply in this case, and therefore the Alliance is not obliged to directly intervene. It is hard to expect the United States or NATO to send troops into Ukraine.
In fact, Zelensky’s frequent calls for a no-fly zone over Ukraine has forced Washington to confront the so-called “escalation paradox.” Since the beginning of the invasion, Western assistance to Ukraine has resembled something akin to walking a tightrope. Washington and the European allies can’t stand still and look at the aggression without taking measures against Russia, but they have to do it carefully to avoid further escalation of the situation. A no-fly zone, for example, would lead to direct involvement in the war and confrontation with the Russians. They [no-fly zones] are designed to deny the use of airspace; it implies the engagement with aircraft that refuse to comply with them, in this case with Russian combat fighter jets.
Furthermore, President Biden is perceived as somebody who epitomizes a “noninterventionist instinct.” He opposed President Obama’s intervention in Libya as well as his surge of troops in Afghanistan. He resolutely defended his order to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan last year. And finally, he is very well aware of possible risks that direct military involvement in Ukraine would bear.
Addressing the US Congress, Zelensky, for the first time, acknowledged that a no-fly zone might be too much for “the US to stomach” and refocused on his request for jet fighters and more advanced air defense systems, as well as more powerful economic sanctions.
Against this backdrop, a mix of the rigorous sanctions and military aid seems to be the most realistic way ahead for Washington in the weeks to come. When it comes to military and humanitarian assistance, the United States has made several steps since the outbreak of the conflict: it released about $350 million in arms at the beginning of the conflict. Weapons shipments to Ukraine over the past year—three in total—come in at more than $1 billion. And President Biden is expected to announce another $800 million toward a fresh round of military aid in the coming days, including anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft systems. The administration is planning to ramp up the sanctions against top Russian officials and those in President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle, according to multiple US officials. Last week, Congress approved a $13.6 billion package of humanitarian, security, and economic assistance, while the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has provided more than $100 million in humanitarian aid and critical relief supplies.
Since Moscow has thus far failed to stage a blitzkrieg attack in Ukraine, the longer war lasts, the more obvious the fissures in the Russian approach to training, equipping, and organizing become. The trajectory of the war, coupled with the growing civilian and military casualties, huge civilian suffering, and millions of refugees, tells us again that diplomacy remains the only option in Ukraine. The Russians’ difficulty in quickly fulfilling their objectives (if they’d ever set clear objectives), and the growing feeling that the operation is costly to maintain, may create a favorable environment for negotiation. It is unrealistic to suppose a comprehensive diplomatic solution will meet the interests of Kyiv and Moscow in the coming days or even weeks. The right to self-defense is guaranteed to Ukrainians by the UN Charter, and they have the right to do their utmost to protect the country. Therefore, a more realistic approach in this moment would be to build a peace step-by-step by reducing risks of further escalation. A ceasefire in Ukraine would be a milestone in a (long?) negotiating process that may guarantee a lasting peaceful solution for the country.
Vesko Garčević is a BU Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies professor of the practice of international relations and a former ambassador from Montenegro to Brussels (NATO) and Vienna (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe [OSCE]) and other international organizations. He can be reached at email@example.com.
POV: Ukrainian President Zelensky Takes His Battle to Congress
The options President Biden must weigh
By Mark C. Storella
Wars are fought on battlefields, but also in the field of public opinion. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has courageously taken this battle to the screens of people around the world.
He has also spoken eloquently to the Russian people in their own language to put the lie to Putin’s perverse propaganda.
In his address to Congress, Zelensky joined the great tradition of other wartime leaders—Winston Churchill’s vaulting call to fight on the beaches, Charles DeGaulle’s defiant appeal to France—and with poignant fluency in the touchstones of our own national experience.
Zelensky knows the extraordinary bravery of Ukrainians is necessary, but not sufficient, to defend the country against Russia’s merciless onslaught.
His plea to Congress was aimed to win the support that Ukraine needs for national survival.
Zelensky did not demur in his request for a NATO no-fly zone and delivery of Polish MiGs, despite President Biden’s view that these steps might be a dangerous bridge too far.
But Zelensky chose his words carefully to open other avenues. He expressed gratitude for what America has already done, and he avoided anything like an ultimatum on the no-fly zone or the MiGs. “If this is too much to ask, we offer an alternative. You know what kind of defense systems we need.”
And Zelensky broadened his appeal to include diplomatic and political help. If Ukraine cannot be part of NATO, “we need new alliances,” he said, proposing some new form of association that could also provide rapid assistance.
Zelensky’s ringing conclusion that “being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace” was aimed directly at President Biden.
Biden launched his presidency declaring, “America is back.” Politely, eloquently, Zelensky asked Biden and America to prove it.
Biden now must decide. His course will depend on many factors, including American domestic political opinion. The boldness of Biden’s actions has grown as broader public support for Ukraine—stoked by Zelensky’s internet appeals—has also strengthened. Biden may now be able to lean further forward. His response may come in four areas:
- Military Assistance: Biden announced $800 million in fresh assistance immediately after the speech. But he will face domestic political pressure to do something visible. Given the potential escalation dangers in a no-fly zone and the difficulties with provision of MiGs, he may choose to offer Ukraine enhanced air defense or other weapons that so far have not made their way into combat.
- Economic: Zelensky pressed for even more sanctions. There are only a few left, but the speech may force Biden’s hand to implement them more quickly.
- Humanitarian: There may be greater pressure for the United States to enter into direct negotiations or through multilateral organizations to put Russia on the spot to facilitate humanitarian access inside Ukraine.
- Diplomatic: Biden will now have to weigh Zelensky’s ideas for some new form of association short of NATO membership. This may develop into something appealing to Moscow as a possible off-ramp that Putin now desperately needs.
The Ukrainian president understood the importance of his speech to Congress. He stepped up to the challenge. In so doing, he has asked America and President Biden to step up, too.
Mark Storella is a BU Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies professor of the practice of diplomacy and a former US Foreign Service officer. He previously served as US ambassador to Zambia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“POV” is an opinion page that provides timely commentaries from students, faculty, and staff on a variety of issues: on-campus, local, state, national, or international. Anyone interested in submitting a piece, which should be about 700 words long, should contact John O’Rourke at email@example.com. BU Today reserves the right to reject or edit submissions. The views expressed are solely those of the author and are not intended to represent the views of Boston University.
“You know what kind of defense systems we need.”
Why are we supposed to provide them? Not to be insensitive but if you knew what kind of defense systems you needed, why didn’t you have them in place already?
Imagine you in the courtroom where the defendant has no right to say anything, and even if he tried, he would be muffled by the crowd. The prosecutor sees his opinion is not opposed, makes more and more wild acquisitions. Crowds go crazy and demand action.
We need to hear the Russian side. Please return RT and other Russian channels.
Happy Evacuation Day everyone.
In 1776 the British (globalists of their day), were forced to evacuate Boston by a group of ragtag revolutionaries who wanted freedom and self determination.
Let’s remove ourselves from foreign adventures, many of which have been brought on by false narratives, costing our lives and our wealth, but benefiting the few.
There is no Soviet Block now. Time to exit NATO, eliminate CIA and take care of our own borders.
People calling for an NFZ don’t realize what a massive escalation it would be. It’s not putting up a sign saying “you can’t fly here.” It’s enforcement and commitment to directly engage and shoot down Russian jets. *An act of war.* Aside from the massive escalation, an NFZ is an enormous operational commitment, and goes well beyond just patrolling the skies with fighters. It would mean suppressing and destroying enemy SAMs (including those in Russian territory), and that would further provoke Russian response. It’s naive to think that this wouldn’t escalate quickly into a nuclear conflict.
As a frequent visitor of BU Today, I want to say that I am confused by the layout of this story. Thank you.
What about the ethnic cleansing since 2014 in Donbass?