Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was properly accorded a positive platform when he visited the U.N. in New York this week. In a wise diplomatic shift, Zelenskyy properly laced his pleas for military and other assistance with expressions of gratitude for support already received since President Vladimir Putin’s Russia launched its relentless aggression last year.
Zelenskyy also criticized the structure of the U.N. Security Council for allowing Russia veto power over any effort by the organization to do its job of supporting international law. This was performative, since the frustrating setup isn’t about to change. When a Russian representative objected to Zelenskyy addressing the council, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama spoke out: “You stop the war and President Zelenskyy will not take the floor.”
President Joe Biden also stood before the U.N. and stepped up his conventionally galvanizing message. As he did last year, Biden said the U.S. and its allies “will continue to stand with the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their sovereignty and territorial integrity, and their freedom.” Going into next year’s election, Biden can credibly claim success in organizing the backing of Zelenskyy and bucking up NATO in its long-declared opposition to Russian incursions, which Ukraine — very justifiably — wants reversed with the invading forces driven out.
Signs of outright fandom for Putin, which cropped up in the U.S. for years in some pretty high places, seem to have faded post-invasion. Overseas, it is relatively easy by now to figure out who stands with whom and who is trying to stay neutral. What nobody can predict is how this war will play out or might expand, or for how long. It rages on even after the dark denouement of the mercenary Wagner Group’s rebellion against Putin, after the “spring offensive” by Ukraine, with economic sanctions squeezing Russia, and despite Putin's blunders.
Zelenskyy and his cause also got a warm greeting in Washington Thursday from key Democrats. But House GOP Speaker Kevin McCarthy, whose caucus includes members threatening not to renew Ukraine aid before a Sept. 30 budget expiration date, declined to have Ukraine’s leader speak to his chamber. Partisan angling aside, the GOP raises valid lines of inquiry: How extended is this American economic commitment against Russian aggression supposed to be? How much of a burden do and should the NATO nations share?
So-called “regime change” in Moscow is not in the works given the threat of regional chaos it would bring, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said before. And with the war going full tilt, there’s no talk of any territorial concessions or other possible compromise that will end it.
War is chaotic and deadly — not an acceptable status quo. The administration and the U.N. should candidly explore where roads to peace might lie. Russia's utter defeat could take a very long time, as righteous a result as that sounds.
MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.