Addressing a rare joint session of Congress on Thursday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko requested that the United States not to be silent about the crimes Russia and pro-Moscow separatists are committing in Ukraine. He urged the Congress to support his country with lethal aid and to back its desire to ascend to a non-NATO member ally status that would extend to them the military support of the full Atlantic alliance if again attacked by Russia.
In his address, Poroshenko insisted that Ukraine was “stabbed in the back” by Russia, which guaranteed that nation’s territorial integrity in exchange for the surrender of the nuclear weapons it was bequeathed after the Soviet Union collapsed.
“The imperialistic mindset it still there,” he said. Poroshenko insisted that “nostalgia for the Soviet Union” has created dangerous conditions in Eastern Europe and warned that there are minority Russian speakers all over Europe and Central Asia – the supposed mistreatment of whom was the reason Russia said legitimized their intervention in Ukraine. “Who is the next?” he asked.
“I urge you not to let Ukraine stand alone in the face of this aggression!” Poroshenko implored. This statement was met with a standing ovation from the assembled members of Congress.
“This Ukrainian army — imagine, these young boys, under-equipped and often under-appreciated by the world — are the only thing that stands between the reality of the peaceful coexistence and the nightmare of the full relapse into the previous century; into the new Cold War,” Poroshenko added. “They need your support.”
Again, Congress was moved to their feet by this statement. Poroshenko was clear that his country needs lethal aid in order to combat the pro-Russian separatists who are often backed by direct Russian military support so that his nation can build “a strong, modern army that we can be proud of.” This, too, led members of Congress to applaud.
“I urge America to lead the way,” the Ukrainian president said. “I understand, believe me, that Americans, and American citizens, and American taxpayers want a peace, not war. So do Ukrainian citizens and taxpayers.” He noted that Ukraine’s war against Russia is a war for “freedom, democracy, and European values.”
While this call to action is merited, the prospects for a return in Ukraine to the status quo ante Russia’s intervention in that country are dismal.
Russia recently praised a measure which passed through the parliament in Kiev that extends to Ukraine’s east new powers of autonomy which virtually guarantee that the conflict in that country will remain a “frozen” one.
The law grants three years of self-governance to certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, with the boundaries to be designated by Ukrainian authorities. It calls for elections on Dec. 7 in those areas, guarantees the right to use of the Russian language and authorizes local control over economic development.
“It means that for some districts that are under the control of gunmen, the Ukrainian government is giving them a special chance for local self-governance to resolve the problem in a nonmilitary manner,” Iryna Gerashchenko, an aide to the president, said on Wednesday.
Opposition leaders, like Yulia Tymoshenko, have called the move “unpatriotic” and suggest that it allows Russia the leeway to continue in its mission of carving off portions of Ukraine.
All the standing ovations in the world from members of Congress are unlikely to undo the damage already done to Ukraine’s sovereignty.