Olena Zelenska has more to say than just “two simple words” — much more, in fact, as she tells ABC News. “Today, a friendly pat on the shoulder is not enough,” the First Lady of Ukraine declared by WhatsApp. “Today, words of sympathy and concern are not sufficient.”
Zelenska’s main message is “STOP WAR,” but the clear subtext here to the West and Joe Biden is “put up or shut up”:
EXCLUSIVE: Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, speaks out to @ABC via WhatsApp on what her message is to Russia’s President Putin: “My message is very similar to the one the whole world delivers. Only two simple words: STOP WAR.” https://t.co/9vp0io164A pic.twitter.com/iohAUnvHhG
— ABC News (@ABC) March 15, 2022
While imploring the West to help Ukraine, she has not shied away from criticizing Western leaders for being silent in response to Putin’s crackdown on the rights of his own citizens and his previous encroachments of her country’s borders.
“Today, our country and our civilians pay a very high price for the silence and hesitation regarding this issue. Yesterday, it was innocent women and children in the maternity hospital in Mariupol. We have lost more than 71 children because of the Russian war — it is genocide of the Ukrainian people,” Zelenska wrote to ABC News.
She added, “Moreover millions of people are suffering in Mariupol, Kharkiv, Irpin, Sumy and other cities. They don’t have water, food and medicine. Russian soldiers are blocking humanitarian aid. We need to stop it. By saying ‘we,’ I mean the whole world.”
Zelenska asked “citizens of America, Europe and the whole world” to hold their leaders accountable for “silently observing for decades while the regime, where you cannot express your opinion, where the nation has been turned into slaves, grew and strengthened.”
Zelenska has some specific requests, one of which is likely never going to happen — and the other of which should have taken place by now:
“Every day of our fight increases the price that Ukraine pays for securing these values,” Zelenska wrote. “Surely, in this fight as a nation, we become stronger and tougher. I wish the sanctions against Russia from the U.S. and E.U. become the same: stronger and tougher.”
She repeated her husband’s call for NATO to impose a no-fly zone over Ukraine, a request that has been rejected by the White House and the international community for fears it could start World War III if a Russian military jet is shot down in a confrontation with U.S. and NATO aircraft enforcing such a zone.
“We ask NATO to close our sky on behalf of all the people of Ukraine, or at least provide us with aircraft so we can defend our sky by ourselves,” Zelenska wrote.
There are good reasons why NATO won’t declare a no-fly zone over Ukraine. To do so would be to invite a global war against a nuclear opponent, one with a formidable naval presence in the region. That’s so obvious it hardly needs to be stated, but one can certainly understand why Ukrainians and especially Zelenska would demand it.
The balk at aircraft transfers is less explainable, especially since the Biden administration literally and explicitly offered a “green light” before changing its mind a couple of days later. Perhaps the extra aircraft wouldn’t make a lot of difference, but it clearly would make some difference, at least in numbers. The transfer of old MiGs wouldn’t lessen NATO security a whit, which means the only cost would be resupply — and that’s minimal against the costs suffered by Ukrainians so far.
No one has been able to explain why we can send all sorts of lethal aid over the border but that the jets would constitute some kind of irrational escalation. The Javelins alone would be provocation for a Russian attack on NATO if Putin was so inclined, but it’s becoming clear that Putin’s forces don’t have the training or the capacity for an expanded fight. At this point, Putin should worry more about NATO than the other way around.
Even with the harsh realities of potential world war, there’s no denying that the Zelenskys have become the most inspirational leaders in the world at the moment. They are fighting for their lives, but more importantly fighting for self-determination for their people in a way that few can imagine their own leaders doing if pressed. In the US, our leadership is looking for ways to let the Russians off the hook — as well as the Iranians that keep firing missiles at us.
Our friend John Ondrasik of Five for Fighting has a new song out yesterday that focuses on the courage and leadership of Volodymyr Zalensky. It’s a mark of how obvious that the inspirational example set by Zelensky that Ondrasik never mentions his name — and yet everyone will know exactly who Ondrasik means when he sings, “Can one man save the world?”
“Like so many, I am inspired and in awe of President Zelensky, his wife Olena, and the Ukrainian people. Their courage and determination in the face of the Russian onslaught gives hope and fortitude to all freedom loving people. In Zelensky, I sense we are witnessing a modern day Winston Churchill, but will he get the support he desperately needs to deter Putin’s cold war ambitions? It makes you ask yourself: ‘Can One Man Save The World?’”
Does freedom still have appetite
Is there the will, the goods to fight
Can a single flame light up the night
I don’t know
Neither do I … but we can hope.