Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told Congress on Wednesday that he was grateful for US help against invading Russian forces, but wanted more — more military help to combat warplanes. Russians, more backlash for Russian politicians and economy.
Already, the United States has worked with other Western nations and Western allies to jointly impose some of the toughest sanctions ever imposed on any country. This includes sanctions against Russian financial institutions and systems, a ban on much of its international trade, and individual sanctions targeting numerous defense officials, civilian leaders and oligarchs in Russia’s power structure.
Here’s a look at Zelenskyy’s other demands in the United States on Wednesday.
A NO-FLY ZONE — OR AN ALTERNATIVE
As expected, Zelenskyy, in his appeal to the world superpower on Wednesday, renewed a demand he made repeatedly throughout the 3-week invasion: the Western creation of a no-fly zone to block Russian warplanes now attacking Ukrainian cities and other civilian targets.
“Is it too much to ask”, so that “Russia cannot terrorize our cities? the Ukrainian leader asked the elated US lawmakers listening in via video.
The United States joined NATO outright rejecting the creation of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, which is not a member of the NATO bloc and is not protected by its defense pact.
Creating such a zone would likely involve Western air forces engaging directly with the Russian military. It would greatly increase the chances of a wider war between Russia and NATO members, which Biden says he is not willing to risk for Ukraine. So would providing Ukraine with MiG fighter jets and a US or NATO base to fly them, something the US and NATO have said no to.
Notably, however, Zelenskyy also presented another option to the no-fly zone.
“If it’s too much to ask, we offer you an alternative,” Zelenskyy said, leveraging the more difficult request to ask for an easier one. He then asked for the Soviet-era S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems, or “similar systems.”
The S-300s use long-range missiles capable of traveling hundreds of miles and shooting down cruise missiles as well as fighter jets. Soviet-era air defense systems could be valuable for Ukraine to continue to challenge Russia’s control of its skies and to thwart Russian air attacks on cities and other targets.
NATO members Bulgaria, Slovakia and Greece have the S-300s. US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is expected to discuss a possible deal that would see some of these S-300s flown to Ukraine during his visit to Bulgaria and Slovakia this week.
Slovakia has no objection to supplying its S-300s to Ukraine, Slovak Defense Ministry spokeswoman Martina Koval Kakascikova told The Associated Press. “But we can’t get rid of a system that protects our airspace if we don’t have a replacement.”
Such a transfer could be a three-country exchange, with the United States or another NATO country supplying Patriots or another air defense system to offset any S-300s passed to Ukraine.
Ukraine already has a few S-300s. And Ukrainian fighters are already using simpler anti-aircraft systems like Stingers, a simple shoulder-mounted missile that uses an infrared sensor to blast low-flying planes, effectively against Russian planes, denying Russian forces the control of Ukrainian skies, according to US military officials. .
Russia is used to relying on warplanes and missiles to raze towns and crush resistance during offensives in Chechnya and Syria.
Ukraine’s resistance to Russian forces, the horrific record of the Ukrainian people, and pleas from its charismatic president are pushing Biden and lawmakers from both parties in Congress to rush to provide military and humanitarian support, within limits set by Biden. in the hope of avoiding a wider war. The support includes a legislative package of more than $13 billion that Biden signed on Tuesday.
Zelenskyy also called on the United States to step up its already punitive set of financial sanctions against Russia, including striking all incumbent members of the Russian Duma and all other politicians serving in Russia.
“In the darkest times for our country, we call on you,” he said, addressing lawmakers who repeatedly rose to applaud the Ukrainian leader. “New sanctions packages are needed every week until the Russian military comes to a halt.”
The United States, European nations and other global allies from the earliest days of Russia’s invasion enacted some of the toughest financial sanctions in history. U.S. officials said the measures would cut Russia off from much of the world’s financial and trading systems, deprive it of high-tech and other imports, drive down the value of the Russian ruble, and ultimately sink Russia in the recession.
A steady stream of individual sanctions has also targeted powerful businessmen and senior military and civilian officials in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s power structure, as well as their family members.
The status of any consideration of broad U.S. sanctions against Russian lawmakers was not immediately known Wednesday. Notably, however, Biden emphasized in first announcing the start of sanctions against Putin’s invasion last month that the Russian leader was acting with the approval of the Russian Duma.
“MAKE SURE THE RUSSIANS DON’T GET A SINGLE PENNY”
Zelenskyy urged American companies still doing business in Russia to leave. He asked lawmakers to pressure all recalcitrant businesses in their districts to get out.
“American companies must leave the Russian market because it is drenched in our blood,” he said.
“Make sure the Russians don’t get a penny that they use to destroy our people in Ukraine” and for “the destruction of our country and the destruction of Europe”.
According to a list maintained by Yale’s School of Management, 147 American companies have announced since Russia launched its invasion that they are pulling out of that country entirely.
Another 173 U.S. companies said they were suspending operations.
With strong support in the West for Ukraine and threats of boycotts from companies still doing business there, about 70 other U.S. companies said they were cutting operations or withholding new investment, but staying.
Constant public pressure has reduced the total number of companies that have made no announced changes to their operations in Russia to less than 40, according to a list maintained by Jeffrey Sonnenfeld of the Yale School of Management,