As Russian shells leave rubble in Kyiv, Volodymyr Zelenskiy tries to increase the pressure on Western governments. They are supposed to supply weapons, not just helicopters, drones and anti-tank missiles, but above all fighter jets, anything that can help stop Vladimir Putin’s troops. On Tuesday, the Ukrainian president addressed the Parliament of Canada, on Wednesday he will be connected live with the US Congress. There, Selenskij is knocking on doors that were recently flung wide open.
MEPs are trying to get the White House to take a more aggressive stance on the Ukraine conflict. A bipartisan group on Friday sent a letter to US President Joe Biden demanding more weapons for Ukraine and tougher sanctions against Russia. S-300 of Soviet and Russian production could be transferred to Ukraine. Speaking live on CNN from the Polish border on Sunday, Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman called on Biden to request a shipment of Polish food. MiG-Enable combat aircraft to Ukraine, which has so far categorically ruled out.
The US president argues that Russia would see a plane deal as a direct confrontation. Speaking to the Democratic Party on Friday, Biden called for patience and warned that a direct confrontation with Russia would mean a third world war, which he wants to avoid.
The White House has taken a cautious line so far. Before the war began, Biden made sure that the last of the US servicemen stopped their training activities in Ukraine and left the country. In early March, he postponed long-planned ICBM tests to avoid sending false signals to Moscow. When it comes to economic sanctions, Biden has also moved more slowly than many in Congress demanded: Although Republicans in particular have been calling for punitive measures against Russia for weeks, Biden only implemented them after the war began. He also delayed a Russian fuel import stop.
New missiles for Ukraine?
Biden always points out how important it is for him to act in step and in consultation with allies, especially in Europe. Unity is crucial to effectively confronting Russia.
NATO Ambassador Julianne Smith rejected accusations of not doing enough on Tuesday. Since the beginning of the year, the US has provided $1.2 billion worth of aid to Ukraine, half of it in the last two weeks alone. Congress has already approved an additional $13.6 billion in aid. According to Smith, the White House is now discussing with NATO allies how it might provide Ukraine with additional air defenses. She declined to give details or whether she was addressing the demands circulating in Congress.
Distraction of their own Putin fans
Congress will hardly be able to persuade Biden to take more offensive steps, such as handing over a fighter jet, because he has no means to do so. Politically, Biden can cushion the pressure, because NATO also wants to avoid escalation.
However, Republicans are likely to continue voicing their demands. In doing so, they are also trying to drown out the fact that many of their own ranks are paying tribute to Vladimir Putin. After former President Donald Trump paid glowing compliments to the Russian autocrat even after the war broke out, many celebrities from the right-wing party spectrum staged pro-Russian positions for days. Faced with the images of suffering in Ukraine, the Republicans have succeeded in silencing these voices, for the time being.
And Russia? The Kremlin announced Tuesday that in response to Western sanctions, President Biden, his Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin would now be barred from entering Russia.