On Tuesday, September 19th, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the United Nations General Assembly in New York City—his first in-person trip since February 2022. The goals of this visit was to request the support of United Nations members and to appeal to skeptics of the Ukrainian cause—namely, leaders of the Global South who are hesitant to impose sanctions on Russia for fear of diplomatic and economic repercussions.
When speaking to those in attendance—around half of the delegates—Zelensky was emphatic in his request that as many countries as possible cut ties with Russia. “Evil cannot be trusted. Ask [Yevgeniy] Prigozhin if one bets on Putin’s promises,” Zelensky said, referring to the former leader of the Wagner mercenary group who passed away in an explosion after taking off from a Moscow airport, an incident that Western nations have blamed on the Kremlin. “Mass destruction is gaining momentum. The aggressor is weaponizing many other things and those things are used not only against our country, but against all of yours as well, fellow leaders.”
In his speech, Zelensky reminded world leaders of the impact that the war has had on the international community, specifically rising energy prices and food shortages. He also warned against Russian attempts to exploit divisions and cross-cutting cleavages internationally, specifically propaganda campaigns in Africa, Latin America, and parts of Asia. The U.N. General Assembly nearly unanimously voted to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and demand respect for Ukraine’s borders, but the Kremlin has ignored calls for the withdrawal of its troops.
Hours after President Zelensky condemned Russia’s “criminal” invasion, Russia launched its largest missile attack in weeks—hitting at least five cities, wounding dozens, and decimating energy facilities, according to reports made by Ukrainian authorities. This attack is a reminder of last year’s Russian air campaign on civil infrastructure that served to break Ukrainians’ wills during the harsh winter.
Continued global economic support for Ukraine is at an estimated $73 billion, but as Zelensky communicated during his visit to the White House on Thursday, September 21st, it’s still not enough. Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said the most important point laid out by Zelensky during his visit is that if the U.S. fails to deliver additional aid, Ukraine will be completely taken over by Russia. During their closed-door meeting with several members of the United States Senate, including Republican Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, Zelensky is reported to have said, “If we don’t get the aid, we will lose the war.”
The Biden administration has asked Congress to approve $24 billion in additional funding for Ukraine. Despite support from nearly all Democrat lawmakers and a significant amount of Republican lawmakers, there is significant opposition on the far right, with some lawmakers supporting military assistance but opposing financial aid, and hard-line GOP members opposing all funds for Ukraine. This can be credited to Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and former president Donald Trump, who have repeatedly called into question the
United States’ obligation to provide aid to Ukraine and the Ukrainian military’s slow counteroffensive. McCarthy told reporters: “Is Zelensky elected to Congress? Is he our president? I don’t think I have to commit anything. I have questions for him: Where’s the accountability in the money we’ve already spent? What is the plan for victory? I think that’s what the American public wants to know.” As of Thursday, more than two dozen Republicans have published letters opposing further financial assistance to Ukraine. It is estimated that Congress has allocated $113 billion in funding for Ukraine as part of four supplemental packages. The Biden administration is expected to announce another supplemental package as Zelensky visits with President Biden at the White House, an additional $24 billion in humanitarian and military aid.
First-year Gaia Dash is a Contributing Writer. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.