In the end, it was a perfectly calibrated performance from Volodymyr Zelensky.
On his whirlwind trip to Washington, the Ukrainian president asked for weapons, money, and continued support, but it never felt like a plea.
His visit on Wednesday coincided – and not by chance – with the war in Ukraine entering a grim new phase. While the conflict’s frontlines are mostly static, “Russia is using winter as a weapon” – as President Biden said yesterday – “freezing people, starving people, cutting them off from one another.”
As temperatures plummet, hardening ground is set to unfreeze the conflict. Zelensky’s job is to make sure that Ukraine’s Western allies don’t become weary of the war or reign in their support.
“Your money is not charity,” Zelensky told Congress. “It’s an investment in the global security and democracy that we handle in the most responsible way . . . You can speed up our victory, I know it.”
And yet, despite the President’s perilous trip, rousing words, and the destruction of his country motivating them, some American commentators were unimpressed.
Sign up for our FREE Reaction Weekend Email
Read the week's best-read articles on politics, business and geopolitics
Receive offers and exclusive invites
Plus uplifting cultural commentary
Daddy’s boy Donald Trump Jr called Zelensky a “welfare queen”, referring to the $45bn of additional military aid to Ukraine included in the $1.7trn omnibus spending bill currently being considered by US lawmakers.
But it was Zelensky’s decision to wear green military fatigues that drew particular ire.
“This ungrateful piece of s*** does not have the decency to wear a suit to the White House — no respect [for] the country that is funding his survival,” Newsmax host Benny Johnson tweeted. “Track suit wearing eastern european con-man mafia. Our leaders fell for it. They have disgraced us all. What an incredible insult.”
“I know there’s a war, but #Zelensky isn’t under fire,” tweeted financial commentator Peter Schiff. “He flew to the U.S. aboard a US government private jet, arrived at the White House in a Chauffeur Driven SUV, yet showed up wearing a sweatshirt. It’s better than a t-shirt, but I still maintain the proper attire is a suit.”
As American journalist and historian Anne Applebaum put it: “Imagine reading about Ukraine, a country where people are living without heat and light, where incredibly brave men endure bombardment and artillery fire every day, where the whole nation has pulled together to stop barbarism of a kind we haven’t seen in Europe since 1944, and then when the president of Ukraine, after months of planning, finally manages to cross the ocean to visit, you respond with… a snarky complaint about his timing. Or his clothes.”
Write to us with your comments to be considered for publication at email@example.com