“I call on you to do more,” Volodymyr Zelensky urged the US Congress in a remarkable live speech from his embattled capital. ‘We need you right now.” The courageous Ukrainian president got a standing ovation from Congress, which obviously touched Zelensky, but applause wasn’t his ambition. “Close the sky over Ukraine” was the message at the end of a video presentation that showed the absolute brutality of the Russian invasion of Ukraine:
Zelenskyy tells Americans to remember the September 11 and Pearl Harbor attacks.
"Our country experienced the same every day right now at this moment, every night for three weeks now." pic.twitter.com/aqFerDPKht
— CBS News (@CBSNews) March 16, 2022
Ukrainian Pres. Zelenskyy speaks to U.S. Congress: "Is that a lot to ask for—to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine, to save people? Is this too much to ask?"
Zelenskyy asks for aircraft "to help Ukraine" if a no-fly zone is not possible. https://t.co/M2eLHQTWbz pic.twitter.com/rWuBDxy1ck
— ABC News (@ABC) March 16, 2022
Zelensky took aim directly at Joe Biden for dragging his heels. If Biden expects to lead the free world, Zelensky declared, he has to muscle up and act to become a “leader of peace”:
BREAKING: Ukrainian Pres. Zelenskyy addresses Pres. Biden in English at conclusion of his virtual address to U.S. Congress: "Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace." https://t.co/XC4D3WDLcN pic.twitter.com/wbI8rKSXgP
— ABC News (@ABC) March 16, 2022
That cuts both ways, though, especially on Zelensky’s biggest ask. The no-fly zone is too much to ask, for clear reasons. It would require NATO to fire on Russian aircraft, which would prompt a global war between Russia and the West. That would not only be the opposite of a “leader of peace,” it’s likely to pull in Iran, North Korea, and perhaps even China if it advances long enough. It’s possible that such a prospect would force Putin into withdrawing from Ukraine, but it’s also possible that Putin’s ready to go down like Wotan in Valhalla, or whatever the Russian equivalent might be.
The request for older Soviet MiGs is more reasonable, however, as are better anti-aircraft and anti-artillery systems to protect civilian populations. On that front, Biden has finally moved. Even this may be more of a half-measure, though:
More details here pic.twitter.com/d2Q17xpWJY
— Samuel Ramani (@SamRamani2) March 16, 2022
Ukrainians wanted S-300s, which would have given them a significant defense against Russian bombers. Former Soviet republics now in NATO will be giving them other systems instead:
According to a senior US official, these additional systems include the Soviet-era SA-8, SA-10, SA-12 and SA-14 mobile air defense systems.
These systems have a lower altitude range than the S-300 system, which Ukraine has requested. However, they have a range higher than the Stinger shoulder-fired missiles previously supplied to Ukraine, giving them the capability to hit cruise missiles.
Those systems are already on the way to Ukraine, even without any specific pledges yet to backfill them with more modern Western systems. That will almost certainly occur anyway, given the high risk potential of a Russian attack on eastern Europe if he annexes Ukraine at some point. (A big if, of course.) NBC News reports that the White House is mulling over transfers of more modern drone packages to deal with Russian artillery targeting Ukraine’s cities:
The Biden administration is considering providing Ukraine with U.S.-made killer drones — cutting-edge guided missiles that could accurately target Russian tanks and artillery positions from miles away — two congressional officials briefed on the matter told NBC News.
No decisions have been made, but the officials said the White House is mulling whether to equip Ukraine with explosives-laden “loitering missiles,” called Switchblades, as part of a new package of military aid President Joe Biden is expected to discuss Wednesday.
There are two variants of the weapon, the Switchblade 300 and the 600, that have been sold to U.S. Special Operations Command by manufacturer AeroVironment, based in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. The 300 is designed for pinpoint strikes on personnel, and the larger 600 is meant to destroy tanks and other armored vehicles.
That would help negate Russia’s blunt-force terror attacks on civilian populations. However, it would also put those systems at risk of capture and reverse engineering by hostile forces. That shouldn’t outweigh the need in Ukraine to defend its civilian populations, but it might in this White House. Offering US systems removes all pretense of deniability that the use of Soviet-era systems provides to prevent an escalation to war with NATO. The US was careful to use that same cover in Afghanistan during the Soviet occupation — even though everyone understood that the US was coordinating those weapons shipments.
At least that would help the Ukrainians to do what Zelensky is begging from the West — to close the sky over Ukraine. They need it before Russia closes the rubble over what remains of Ukraine. Here’s the entire speech to Congress, but be aware that Zelensky’s video presentation has very graphic imagery and footage of the Russian bombardments. It also contains highly inspirational footage of a leader trying to save his people from a barbaric horde intent on their destruction. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Zelensky’s like.
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