In a rare moment of public vulnerability, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky pleaded for his military to “show results” before the upcoming NATO summit that is being held July 11-12 in Vilnius, Lithuania. The plea comes as some in Washington are growing weary of providing U.S. arms to Kyiv if its military is incapable of making advances.
Zelensky spent the weekend meeting with numerous journalists to address headlines that have suggested that the West believes the Ukrainian counteroffensive is failing. The president explained that “torrential rains” had “slowed down some processes quite a bit,” but reaffirmed that “every kilometer” of regained territory and any new gains “costs lives.”
While urging the West to send even more arms, Zelensky in the same breath balmed gains lost last fall on the late arrival of artillery. Both Zelensky and his top generals have continuously complained about a lack of air capability and have continued to pressure the West and NATO for F-16 fighter jets.
“We stopped because we couldn’t advance. Advancing meant losing people and we had no artillery,” Zelensky said during the press briefing. “We are very cautious in this aspect. Fast things are not always safe,” he added.
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The president then reiterated that he has a responsibility to his forces and that he will not take unnecessary risks.
“If they tell me that two months will pass and thousands of people will die, or three months and fewer people will die, of course, I will choose the latter,” he said. “Between time and people, the most important thing is people,” he concluded.
As part of his remarks, Zelensky specifically attacked Republicans in Congress as the West’s enthusiasm to support Ukraine has begun to dwindle in recent weeks. Zelensky was critical of the “dangerous messages coming from some Republicans,” but was very complimentary of a Thursday visit from former Vice President Mike Pence.
“Mike Pence has visited us, and he supports Ukraine. First of all, as an American, and then as a Republican,” Zelensky commented.
“We have bipartisan support. However, there are different messages in their circles regarding support for Ukraine. There are messages coming from some Republicans, sometimes dangerous messages, that there may be less support,” he noted.
Zelensky went on to reiterate that bipartisan support is “the most important thing for Ukraine,” regardless of the outcome of the 2024 presidential election.
He also remarked about NATO, saying, “NATO without Ukraine is not NATO.” Zelensky’s comments come less than 10 days before the alliance meets for its Vilnius summit where Ukraine’s membership is expected to be high on the agenda. While the UK has continued to be Ukraine’s most outspoken ally for membership, both Germany and the U.S. have expressed concerns about accepting Kyiv for full membership.