US Pro-War Media Coverage of Zelensky’s Washington Trip Obsesses Over Military Aid
13:55 GMT 22.12.2022 (Updated: 14:23 GMT 22.12.2022)
© MANDEL NGANUS House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (R) and US Vice President Kamala Harris (L) present Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky an American flag after receiving a Ukrainian national flag from him following his address to the US Congress at the US Capitol in Washington, DC on December 21, 2022.
© MANDEL NGAN
After dozens of appearances in Zoom calls with US officials, DC think tank panels, the Grammys, and even a conference alongside FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, Ukraine’s president finally made an in-person visit to Washington for talks with his US patrons. The purpose of his trip can be summarized in two words: give money.
At his press conference with Joe Biden on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Washington to stay the course in supporting Kiev in its battle with the Russian “non-humans,” calling for more financial assistance and sophisticated weapons systems.
After a series of photo ops with Biden, Zelensky addressed a joint session of Congress, asking for artillery shells and cannons, and asking the US to slap even more sanctions on Moscow, comparing his country’s Western-backed proxy conflict with Russia to the American Revolutionary War.
The US will have sent Ukraine more than $105 billion in economic and military assistance in 2022 if and when Congress manages to finalize the $1.7 trillion 2023 omnibus budget deal later this week. Ahead of Zelensky’s trip, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a new $1.85 billion weapons package to Kiev, including a Patriot missile system. The assistance reportedly includes $1 billion in arms directly from the US military’s own stocks, including the Patriot battery, HIMARS ammunition, 155mm precision-guided artillery rounds, tens of thousands of mortar rounds, MRAP vehicles, JADM missiles, grenade launchers, small arms, claymore mines, night vision devices, communications systems, tank gun rounds, and BM-21 Grad rocket ammo.
But the outlays are not enough for some US media, whose coverage of Zelensky’s trip played up concerns that the US’ future support for Ukraine won’t be able to match levels achieved in 2022, which put tens of billions of dollars in cash in American weapons makers’ pockets, and billions more into the pockets of lobbyists, officials, and oligarchs in Washington and Kiev.
Mainstream reporting has generally split into two categories: lavish praise and flattery for Zelensky and Biden, usually laced with trigger words including "democracy," "freedom," and "tyranny," and fearmongering reports about what would happen if aid flows suddenly stopped or were reduced.
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The Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post, for example, hailed the trip in a piece titled “Zelensky’s visit yields remarkable moment for two presidents,” and featured a laudatory tribute to Zelensky and Biden with epithets so glorious even attendees of a convention of sycophants blush.
“Capping a year in which they each faced long odds and defied gloomy predictions, the two men stood side by side at the White House…President Biden in a blue suit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in an olive-green military shirt and heavy boots,” WaPo White House Bureau chief Toluse Olorunnipa wrote. “The stark sartorial contrast was one of the few differences on display as Biden and Zelensky praised one another and presented a united front…The visit underscored how the relationship between the two men – a 44-year-old born in what was then the USSR and an octogenarian born in Scranton, Pa – has unexpectedly become one of the most vital partnerships in global affairs.”
© Photo : screenshotScreengrab of Washington Post's laudatory article praising Presidents Biden and Zelensky.
Screengrab of Washington Post's laudatory article praising Presidents Biden and Zelensky.
© Photo : screenshot
“Zelensky’s visit highlights that freedom is winning in Ukraine – for now,” the WaPo’s editorial board wrote in the paper’s official op-ed on the trip. “President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine made his career in comedy, but the Russian invasion of his country 10 months ago brought out his talent for drama – of the most inspiring kind. Standing before a joint session of Congress…Mr. Zelensky thanked the United States for its military and financial support, presented a flag signed by troops…and characterized his country’s struggle as the front line in a global battle for freedom and democracy against tyrants seeking to rewrite the international order,” the op-ed gushed.
© Photo : screenshotGushing Washington Post editorial board op-ed on Volodymyr Zelensky's December 21, 2022 trip to the US.
Gushing Washington Post editorial board op-ed on Volodymyr Zelensky's December 21, 2022 trip to the US.
© Photo : screenshot
Not to be outdone, The New York Times titled a pair of pieces on the visit “Biden and Zelensky Present a United Front Against Russia” and “Zelensky and Biden Stand Together During Defiant Visit,” and highlighting further US military support for Kiev “as an investment in global security and democracy in the face of Russian aggression.”
CNN also got into the spirit of things, dubbing Zelensky’s address to Congress as an “impassioned plea for more help fighting Russia on the ‘frontline of tyranny,’” and calling the speech “historic.”
© Photo : screenshotCNN Politics piece praising President Zelensky over his "impassioned plea" in the battle against "tyranny."
CNN Politics piece praising President Zelensky over his "impassioned plea" in the battle against "tyranny."
© Photo : screenshot
Politico, another major US outlet with well-established ties to the arms industry, called its piece “Zelensky comes to Washington and pulls neither punches nor asks.” Apparently trying to channel Robert Ludlum or John le Carre, the report set up Zelensky’s bland, uneventful flight to Washington like a scenario out of a thriller novel, documenting it as a “perilous, secret journey from the war’s front lines to Washington, DC.”
Only a few outlets seemed unfazed by Zelensky’s charms, with Fox News host Tucker Carlson predictably slamming the Ukrainian president for showing up to the White House dressed like a “manager of a strip club and started to demand money.”
“Amazingly, no one threw him out. Instead they did whatever he wanted. American taxpayers, declared Joe Biden, will continue to give Zelensky whatever he demands for quote ‘as long as it takes,’” Carlson vented.
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Fear and Loathing
Alongside obsequiousness, the second variety of reporting on Zelensky’s trip has been panicky appeals over the consequences of stopping or reducing aid. Perhaps realizing the limits that American taxpayers are willing to endure sending tens of billions of dollars abroad as the country continues to face deep-seated problems like inflation, energy, border, mental health, and homelessness crises, media went into overdrive attacking anyone who dared question support for Kiev.
“Republicans praise Zelensky but balk at future aid,” Politico wrote in a second piece, warning that securing aid from the next Congress “remains uncertain” amid GOP intransigence on funding indefinitely and without checks.
“The reception Zelensky received from congressional Republicans on Wednesday was largely positive. Broadly, across the House GOP conference, Republicans say they support both him and his army, as well as the Ukrainian people, in the battle against Russia. But many of those same members also say they plan to exercise oversight powers to scrutinize tens of billions that the US has spent,” Politico warned.
ABC News listed off the Republicans who have signaled that they will not support a blank check approach to Kiev, among them incoming House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Matt Gaetz, Andrew Clyde, Barry Moore, Thomas Massie, Cory Mills, and Marjorie Taylor Greene, and quoted Democratic lawmakers who have “called out” their GOP counterparts.
“I hope that Donald Trump’s friendship with Putin is not motivating Republicans to turn a blind eye to Ukraine’s suffering and desperate need for help,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was quoted as saying, likely referencing the long-debunked Trump-Russia collusion claims. “Because the so-called friendship between Putin and Trump was a sour relationship that was deeply damaging to our country and to the international order,” Schumer said.
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The Hill gave perhaps the most sobering assessment of the true nature of the US-Ukrainian partnership. Contributor Harlan Ullman – a senior advisor to the Atlantic Council – an influential DC neocon think tank, warned in a piece a day before Zelensky's arrival that while the Ukrainian president seems “to have been given the authority to dictate terms” for ending the conflict for now, “at some stage the US will act in its own interests, possibly as the Trump administration did in negotiating withdrawal from Afghanistan with the Taliban, and not the Afghan government.”
“And while the US and NATO are in firm agreement in supporting Ukraine, will that cohesion persist if the war continues indefinitely?” The Hill contributor asked, pointing out that Russia’s strategy appears set “for the long haul.”