Lubomyr Luciuk

Dec 24, 2022

It was masterful. Presented before Congress, and not in Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s mother tongue, it was delivered after he first made a perilous front-line visit to the defenders of besieged Bakhmut, followed by a trans-Atlantic flight. In Washington, Ukraine’s Moses then gave his sermon on the Capital mount. His speech will go down in history, recalled less for eloquence than for what it invoked, as Zelensky channeled the spirit of Winston Churchill, another wartime leader who came-a-calling in December 1941 asking for America’s support for embattled Britain against the Nazis. In the very same spot, 81 years later, Zelensky urged the USA to do the same thing for Ukraine, only this time against a revanchist Russian fascism.

Overall, Zelensky’s message was one of deep gratitude. Several times he emphasized how his people thank America for standing with Ukraine against Vladimir Putin’s imperial project and genocidal agenda.

His timing was perfect. He arrived at Christmas with the perfect gift for the US Congress, a battlefield flag from the eastern front. And he explicitly gave thanks to all  Americans – Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike, while ignoring the infantiles who made a point of not standing to applaud his words, although the majority in Congress did, and more than once. Untroubled, Zelensky reached out to the good people of America, underscoring their country’s fundamental role in sustaining Ukraine’s fight for freedom. As he did so, Zelensky also reminded everyone that Ukraine did not start this war, that all Ukrainians want is to be able to chart their country’s course without the interference of a bullying neighbour. They will fight until all the lands Russia stole after 2014 are recovered, including Crimea.

To liberate the occupied territories Kyiv admits it needs more heavy weapons of the sort Washington and other allied countries, including Canada, have been providing. Ukraine’s president was also clear that Ukraine is not asking for American soldiers to free his country. Ukrainians will do the job themselves. They will get it done sooner if they are amply supplied with Western military aid.

What does “victory” look like for Ukraine? Zelensky was clear. All of Ukraine’s territory must be recovered and all Russian troops along with their mercenaries and conscripted convicts must withdraw. Until that happens there is nothing to discuss with Putin. You do not reward a bully and should never appease a fascist. And Russia must pay Ukraine reparations for the great harm Russian aggression has caused. This is not a maximalist or extreme position. It is refreshingly straightforward and quite principled.

The coming year will be decisive for Ukraine’s future and, quite probably, for Europe. Unless the world’s democracies defend our way of life and values there will be no lasting peace or security,

no prosperity or progress. And, as Zelensky made clear, the USA must lead the way simply because America is exceptional, and remains the leader of the Free World.

Every day Volodymyr Zelensky is guiding his people ever-further from the domains of a Pharaonic Putin, journeying to the promised land, seeking to return Ukraine to its rightful place in Europe. Ukrainians are not there yet and hard times lie ahead. They still face a vicious enemy, abetted by naysayers and Ukrainophobes planted throughout the West. But they will get there.

Most Canadians marked Christmas on 25 December, as did some Ukrainians. Others, like me, whether over there or here, still celebrate traditionally according to the Julian calendar, on 7 January. This year I will do so by candlelight, in solidarity with the many Ukrainians whose loved ones were murdered, whose cities are shattered, who do not have the taken-for-granted comforts of electricity, water, and heating in the dead of winter, their very lives threatened daily by the recurring plague of Russian missile salvoes. None of these horrors would ever have happened if the KGB man in the Kremlin had just pondered the opening words of the Ukrainian national anthem which begins “Ukraine has not died.” Putin tried to kill Ukraine and failed. Soon he will reap what he has sowed. That would be the best Christmas present, almost ever.

Lubomyr Luciuk is a professor of political geography at the Royal Military College of Canada