Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky blasted the US and other Western allies for “playing games” with weapons transfers to his country, questioning the motives of Kiev’s foreign benefactors while pleading for additional support.
During a Friday interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, Zelensky said some promised arms deliveries have been delayed, suggesting Ukrainians may soon grow skeptical about the intentions of their American and European partners.
“I believe that the United States – the people of the United States – want [the weapons shipments], but if this process gets longer, continues to be delayed … then people begin to ask the question, ‘Is it really true?’” the president said. “Maybe there is some game behind it. I don’t want to believe that some partners of ours are playing games.”
The Ukrainian leader went on to slam some countries for offering “bulletproof vests or some special brand helmets,” instead pleading for heavy weaponry from Washington, including fighter jets.
“Just give us missiles. Give us airplanes. [If] you cannot give us F-18, F-19, or whatever you have, give us the old Soviet planes. That’s all. Give them into my hands. Give me something to defend my country with, my state,” he said, arguing that Americans should support the aid given their shared values with Ukraine.
Recent polling appears to support the latter claim, as some surveys indicate that a majority of Americans believe President Joe Biden has not been tough enough on Russia, while significant numbers even say they are willing to endure economic hardship in order to punish Moscow for its invasion. Perhaps more alarming is a Pew poll published last month, in which more than one-third (35%) of respondents said they favor direct military intervention in Ukraine “even if it risks a nuclear conflict with Russia.”
Within hours of Zelensky’s comments, however, Washington approved another $300 million in lethal aid for Ukraine, including drones, “laser-guided rocket systems,” ammunition and armored vehicles, among other gear. In announcing the move, the Pentagon boasted that the US had provided $1.6 billion in military assistance to Kiev since Russia’s attack on February 24, and a massive $2.3 billion since Biden took office in 2020.
While it remains unclear what weapons are actually making it to Ukraine, other Western nations also announced new rounds of military aid this week, with Australia promising to deliver Bushmaster armored vehicles, while the UK is leading a group of allies to donate “longer-range artillery.” In addition to its multi-million dollar package on Friday, the White House also said it would help facilitate transfers of Soviet-era tanks from other European states.
Asked about the presence of ultranationalist and even neo-Nazi fighters among Ukrainian forces – namely the controversial Azov Battalion – Zelensky insisted they are “defending our country,” saying “they are what they are.” He acknowledged that volunteer militias like Azov had been formally incorporated into the Ukrainian military, but argued that they are “no longer a self-established group” and that the government has held them to account for past rights abuses.
Zelensky also weighed in on efforts to negotiate an end to the fighting, again rejecting a major concession sought by Russia. Though Moscow demands that Kiev recognize the eastern Donbass region as independent and accept Russia’s claim over Crimea, the president said he is unwilling to budge on Ukraine’s borders.
He reiterated that his country is not seeking NATO membership, but rather a promise from allies to come to Ukraine’s defense if it is attacked. When asked whether Washington would commit to such a security pact, Zelensky said the US is now considering taking on the role of guarantor “in a positive way,” noting that he is in touch with Biden “quite often.”