Russia-Ukraine: How Zelensky changed the West’s response

Five days after Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his courageous nation have done more to change Western policy toward Russia after 30 years of post-war summits. Cold War, policy reset and confrontation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine’s leader’s defiance has inspired and shamed the United States and the European Union into going much further – and much faster – in making Russia a worse country than it was. ready. By promising to supply 44-year-old Zelensky with weapons and ammunition, the West appears increasingly drawn into a possible proxy war with Moscow over Ukraine, even though the country is not a member. NATO members benefit from the bloc’s direct mutual defense agreements.

After insisting last week that sanctions would be calculated on an ascending curve based on Russia’s behavior, Washington and its allies have now rushed to sanction Putin personally and have kicked out major banks. Russia’s key out of the key global financial network SWIFT. In the most unusual twist, Germany, under new Chancellor Olaf Scholz, has pledged to exceed NATO targets for defense spending and has overcome reticence in sending weapons to war zones by vowing to arm the Ukrainian army against the Russian army. Germany has also stopped the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that brings much-needed Russian gas to Western Europe. In another striking moment, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, a pro-Putin, sided with European Union leaders against the Russians. Another autocrat, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has warm relations with Putin, invoked a 1930s convention that could complicate Russia’s naval activities in the Black Sea.

And Britain, after a period of turning a blind eye to the riches of London’s wealthy launderers, belatedly declared, in the words of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, “There is no place for dirty money in the UK.” Even former President Donald Trump, who spent last week extolling Putin’s “genius” as the invasion unfolded, on Saturday felt compelled to honor the bravery of Zelensky, whom he once tried. extortion using American aid in a phone call that led to the first impeachment.

The heroism of the President of Ukraine has also moved people around the world and generated a series of smaller gestures of support. Formula One and European football chiefs have stripped Russia of its attractive events. Russian ballet performances have been canceled in the UK. And some US states are pulling Russian-made vodka off store shelves.


Significant tension on the global front against Russia over the weekend followed Zelensky’s increasingly fervent calls. European leaders reported that in a call with them last week he said he did not know how long he or his country had been away.

Few outsiders predicted that Zelensky, a former comic actor who, to the chagrin of American officials, had ignored or disregarded American warnings of an impending invasion for weeks, turning into a leader worthy of this moment in his country’s history. His dismissal changed days before the invasion as he increasingly made heartbreaking calls for help. His earlier caution may have left many of his countrymen unprepared for the pain to come.

In the most extreme circumstances, however, Zelensky ironically embodies the very values ​​- including staunch defense of democracy – that would qualify Ukraine for membership in the whole Union. European Union and NATO, a path Putin has attempted to close with his invasion.

“They are one of us and we want them to join,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in an interview with Euronews on Sunday, referring to Ukraine.

Zelensky not only created a historical legend of his own, standing up against autocracy in a way that placed him alongside famous Cold War dissidents such as Polish Solidarity leader Lech Walesa and Imre Nagy, executed leaders of the 1956 Hungarian uprising against the Warsaw Pact. He is offering the kind of inspirational leadership often lacking in a pandemic that has seen some leaders put their political goals above the public good and refuse to follow public health rules. that they impose on their own people. Unlike former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who fled Kabul when the Taliban attacked the capital last summer, Zelensky is determined to stay and fight – and possibly die with his people.

He has become the rarest leader – synonymous with the mood and character of his people at a pivotal moment in history while readying them for ever greater national endeavors as Prime Minister. British general Winston Churchill during World War II or George Washington during and after the American era. Revolution.

In a comment that has become iconic, Zelensky rejected the US offer of a safe exit, telling the US, according to his country’s embassy in Britain, “The war is here. I need ammunition. Not to ride.”

In another poignant message on Sunday, the President of Ukraine warned the rest of the world that although he and his country were within range, he was waging a war in the name of freedom and democracy around the world.

“Ukrainians have shown courage to defend their homeland and save Europe and its values ​​from the onslaught of Russia,” he said.

“This is not just Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This is the beginning of a war against Europe, against European structures, against democracy, against basic human rights, against basic human rights. to the global order of law, rule and peaceful coexistence.”


Zelensky’s comments come amid an even more alarming Ukraine crisis.

Putin, lashed out at NATO leaders, put Russia’s deterrence forces – including nuclear weapons – on high alert. The move may be designed to frighten the West, but it also raises concerns about escalation to truly alarming levels.

Putin’s nuclear rhetoric comes as he appears more isolated than ever, with his forces bogged down in the roads to Kyiv and scenes of burned convoys hinting at resistance. of the Ukrainians.

There has never been a greater need for Putin to provide some form of crisis diplomacy. But neither Western nor Ukrainian leaders have high hopes for talks scheduled for Monday between officials from Kyiv and Moscow on the border with Belarus.

And Monday’s expected fall in Russia’s currency, the ruble, following international sanctions could put further political pressure on Putin and worsen his volatile mood.


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is, more than anything, the result of one’s obsession with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the shape of the post-Cold War world, and a perceived lack of respect for with images of Russia as a great power. But if Putin sparked the crisis, it was Zelensky’s behavior that spurred the rest of the world’s response – his frequent use of social media posts makes Russia’s propaganda machine seem underpowered. .

But the question that must be asked is whether all the response has come too late for Ukraine.

A three-mile-long Russian column was spotted in satellite images en route to Kyiv on Sunday, sparking fears of a possible attack on the capital that would leave civilians in direct fire and increased the already high death toll, which local authorities put at 352 on Sunday. Western leaders say it will take time for sanctions to begin to deal a blow to Putin, his oligarchs and the Russian people. But Ukraine may have days, not weeks, of remaining an independent country.

The survival of the President of Ukraine is also taking on greater importance for the rest of the world. The tough slogans facing Russian forces underline the difficulty Russia will have in subduing a nation the size of occupied France. A divided Ukraine and a full-scale uprising would be much more effective with Zelensky as the locomotive. His renewed influence in global capitals and his ability to mobilize political heat over foreign leaders could be invaluable to the Ukrainian cause, which is why one last flight from Kyiv may be essential to his hopes of liberating the country.

But Zelensky and his thousands of Ukrainians know they may be living in borrowed time. Putin seems to have been pushed back into a corner, making him all the more urgent to end the conflict quickly and decisively. The Russian leader, who wrongly viewed Zelensky and his compatriots as Nazis, has a record of appalling reactions without heeding civilian damage. Russia’s complete destruction of the Chechen capital Grozny in its ruthless attempt to crush the separatists may offer some omens for Kyiv in the coming days.

And Zelensky’s phenomenal success so far has only made him a better target for Russia. Moscow may reason that if he is captured or killed, Ukrainian morale and resistance could collapse.

However, evidence over the past few days makes that a questionable proposition.

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