A hero’s welcome awaited President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine on his first journey to the United States after Russia’s full-scale invasion, which got here on the heels of two back-to-back army advances that showcased Ukrainian momentum to the West. Mr. Zelensky spoke to a joint session of Congress final December, highlighting the successes and interesting for continued assist.
Mr. Zelensky’s second go to, starting on Tuesday, is a extra delicate political mission, coming within the face of skepticism over help to Ukraine from some Republican lawmakers and amid a slow-moving and to date inconclusive counteroffensive on which many hopes within the conflict had been pinned.
Mr. Zelensky will attend the U.N. General Assembly assembly in New York, the place he’s anticipated to proceed an effort to win assist amongst creating nations which have wavered or leaned towards Russia. Then he’ll journey to Washington to satisfy with congressional leaders and go to the White House.
The Ukrainian president is approaching his appearances with a extra balanced message. He stays a tireless advocate for army help for the Ukrainian Army, however has infused his pleas with deep expressions of gratitude for what the West has already offered.
It’s a shift in tone and strategy for Mr. Zelensky after criticism that he was scolding his allies and showing ungrateful as he pressed them for weapons.
At a NATO summit in July, Ben Wallace, then Britain’s protection minister, mentioned, “Like it or not, people want to see a bit more gratitude.” He mentioned he was providing recommendation for Ukraine to win over those that have been skeptical of assist.
At the identical summit, in Vilnius, Lithuania, Jake Sullivan, the Biden administration’s nationwide safety adviser, mentioned that “the American people do deserve a degree of gratitude” for ammunition, air-defense techniques, armored autos and mine-clearing gear.
Mr. Zelensky appeared to get the message.
“Thank you so much,” he mentioned in a quick remark throughout Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken’s go to to Kyiv this month, wherein Mr. Zelensky mentioned thanks eight instances.
“We are really thankful. We are very thankful,” he mentioned.
Last December, Mr. Zelensky arrived in Washington simply weeks after Ukraine’s army had defeated Russian forces in the one provincial capital they’d seized within the full-scale invasion, Kherson, within the nation’s south. Earlier within the fall, Ukraine had sprung a profitable shock assault on Russian forces within the Kharkiv area within the northeast, recapturing cities and villages throughout a large swath of territory.
The features meant that Ukraine had reclaimed about half the territory Russia seized within the invasion that started in February 2022.
Ukrainian forces on the time had been additionally fiercely holding off the Russians in Bakhmut. (The Russians ultimately captured town in May.) In his look earlier than Congress, which drew a standing ovation, Mr. Zelensky offered the Democratic congresswoman Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris with a Ukrainian flag signed by troopers preventing in Bakhmut.
At the time, preparations had been already underway for the army operation that started in southern Ukraine this June, after a monthslong look ahead to American and European weaponry, together with tanks and armored autos. Mr. Zelensky has complained that the delay gave Russia time to dig in and lay huge minefields, thwarting any quick advance.
Other elements added to the delay, together with late spring rains, however the Ukrainian authorities’s evolving argument was that the West’s hesitation over sending extra highly effective and complicated weapons was pricey when it comes to the counteroffensive’s effectiveness.
Ukraine’s military is now locked in a plodding however vicious and bloody battle alongside two important strains of assault by way of farm fields and tiny villages.
Military analysts haven’t written off the operation, however even Mr. Zelensky has mentioned it’s transferring slower than hoped. This month, Ukraine pierced a important line of Russian defenses close to the village of Robotyne and is preventing to widen the breach sufficiently to ship by way of armored autos.
At dwelling, Mr. Zelensky stays politically fashionable although he has hit some velocity bumps, together with corruption in army recruitment workplaces and procurement that led to the firing of his protection minister. On Monday, Ukraine dismissed all six of its deputy protection ministers, a big shake-up in its wartime operations.
After almost 19 months of conflict, the overwhelming majority of Ukrainians stay enraged at Russia for the invasion and deeply against any settlement that would depart President Vladimir V. Putin with any features from the assault.
In addition to lobbying the United States and Europe for army assist, Ukraine has been searching for diplomatic backing from creating international locations in Africa and South America, arguing that disruptions in grain shipments are elevating meals costs. He additionally needs to shore up assist from army allies, of which the United States is most pivotal.
America supplies a few third of direct weapons donations to Ukraine’s military. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion, Congress has accepted roughly $43 billion in safety help.
Now, the White House has requested from Congress a further $24 billion in Ukraine assist that appears more likely to turn into entangled in partisan spending fights this fall. Mr. Zelensky could have a chance to attempt to unite Democrats and Republicans on the necessity for continued army help.
Looming over Mr. Zelensky’s go to is the American presidential election, simply over a yr away. The prospect of a second Trump administration, and a much less enthusiastic dedication to aiding Ukraine, is a priority to leaders in Kyiv.
“It’s a different kind of conversation” for the Ukrainian chief in Washington because the United States strikes into an election yr, Igor Novikov, a former U.S. coverage adviser to Mr. Zelensky, mentioned in an interview. The president will attempt “to keep the substance of the war on the agenda and not alow it to become domestic political pingpong, because it’s a matter of life and death.”
With Ukraine effervescent up as a home political challenge within the United States and European nations, Kyiv might want to have interaction politicians against Ukraine spending, Mr. Novikov mentioned.
Ukrainian politicians of all viewpoints have mentioned the nation’s nationwide curiosity lies in sustaining bipartisan assist for U.S. assist. Mr. Zelensky met in Kyiv over the summer time with former Vice President Mike Pence and has commonly hosted Republican members of Congress.
In Washington, Mr. Zelensky additionally intends to argue that America’s pursuits are served in defending Europe’s borders in Ukraine, in accordance with an official within the president’s workplace. Otherwise, the conflict may unfold, destabilizing the European Union, which is the United States’ largest buying and selling companion.
In the run-up to the invasion, Russia acknowledged claims to safety affect in Eastern Europe extra broadly, demanding that international locations admitted to NATO after the breakup of the Soviet Union depart the alliance.
“If Ukraine were to fail, Putin would be emboldened with profound security and economic effects for the United States and average Americans,” mentioned the official, who insisted on anonymity as a result of he was not approved to talk publicly about Mr. Zelensky’s go to. “We will reiterate that Americans should never have to fight Russians in Europe, and the best way to secure that is Ukrainian victory.”
Mr. Zelensky additionally intends to put out in non-public conversations Ukraine’s plans within the conflict, the official mentioned, to assuage worries that the preventing may lavatory down within the back-and-forth battles of latest months alongside the entrance. Ukraine has scored some success in long-range strikes on Russian air and naval bases and this month broken a touchdown ship and submarine within the port of Sevastopol, in occupied Crimea.
Still, a key aim, the official mentioned, is to ship “a huge message of gratitude to the president, Congress and the American people.”