- Author, James Waterhouse
- Role, BBC correspondent in Ukraine
- Reporting from Kyiv
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was forced to make additional efforts during his visit to the United States and Canada, despite the strong and stable relations.
The visit to Canada was the easiest, as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to support Ukraine “as long as it needs it” in the face of Russia’s invasion, and Trudeau enjoys unanimous support from members of various parties in this endeavor.
Although “America’s pockets are more full of money,” its policies are more complex.
President Zelensky got a new $325 million military package from the White House, but it wasn’t the massive $24 billion he had hoped for.
This package is facing difficulty in Congress due to disagreement over budgets.
However, the difficulties do not stop there either.
The Ukrainian leader held a meeting with his US counterpart Joe Biden, in addition to meetings with Republican politicians who are trying to contain growing doubts within their party.
“We are protecting the liberal world, and this should resonate with Republicans,” one government adviser in Kiev told us.
He adds: “It was more difficult when the war started, because it was chaos. Now we can be more specific in our requests, because we know what our allies have and where they store it, to the point that allows our president to be Minister of Defense in a number of countries!”
But Ukraine’s demands cannot be achieved so smoothly, and political challenges continue to escalate.
The most prominent questions usually revolve around the following: “Why does Ukraine continue to be given a blank check? What is the form and nature of victory?”
These are two questions that the Ukrainian leader is trying to answer in global forums.
That’s why he’s doing more negotiating rather than additional support campaigns, just to keep Western aid going.
The Polish ban on Ukrainian imports prompted President Zelensky to indirectly accuse Warsaw of “aiding Russia.”
This was clearly met with great dismay in Poland, where President Andrzej Duda described Ukraine as “a drowning person who can drag you to the bottom with him.”
The situation has calmed down since then.
Even for an experienced wartime leader, these are difficult diplomatic times.
Upcoming elections in partner countries such as Poland, Slovakia and the United States muddy the picture, with some candidates prioritizing domestic issues at the expense of military support for Ukraine.
“The need to balance military aid with voter satisfaction makes things very complicated,” explains Sergei Gerasymchuk, an analyst at Ukrainian Prism.
“Ukraine must take into account the promotion of its interests using all possible tools, taking into account the situation in partner countries and the European Union,” he adds.
This is the kind of democracy that Russian leader Vladimir Putin need not worry about.
That is why Kiev is trying to portray this war as a battle not only for its sovereignty, but also for democracy itself.
In this regard, the Ukrainian government advisor with whom we spoke says: “The moral aspect of this war is huge.”
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom agreed to the Budapest Memorandum in 1994.
Ukraine handed over the remaining Soviet nuclear weapons on its territory to Russia, in exchange for a pledge that its territorial integrity would be respected and defended by the other countries that signed the agreement.
As nine years have passed since the “Russian aggression,” the agreement seems like a promise that cannot be kept.
Kiev is also trying to practice a long-term strategy, by trying to interact better with countries such as Brazil and South Africa, which have been indifferent to the Russian invasion.
This is a strategy that does not achieve immediate results.
The Ukrainian government adviser acknowledges the importance of relying on success on the front lines, but argues that the media has oversimplified matters regarding the Ukrainian counteroffensive, by focusing too much on frontline events, where gains were marginal, and focusing less on the major successes that took place. Achieved by missile strikes in Crimea and targeting Russian warships.
While Ukraine has always maintained that it “will not rush” its counterattack, with the politics of this war increasingly tied to combat, this commitment to not rushing is being tested more than ever.