Analysis: Why Zelensky’s surprise US visit is so hugely significant

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s White House visit Wednesday will symbolically bolster America’s role as the arsenal of democracy in the bitter war for Ukraine’s survival and send a stunning public rebuke to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

That his first trip outside Ukraine since the Russian invasion in February is to the United States will also highlight President Joe Biden’s historic role in reviving the Western alliance that kept the Soviet Union at bay and is now countering new expansionism by Moscow in an effective proxy war between nuclear superpowers.

Zelensky’s arrival will draw poignant echoes of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s arrival in Washington, 81 years ago on Thursday, days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. That Christmas visit cemented the alliance that would win World War II and built the post-war democratic world.

Zelensky compared his nation’s resistance against Russia with Britain’s lonely defiance of the Nazis in the days before the US entered World War II during a video address to the UK Parliament earlier this year, and his arrival in the US capital will sharpen the parallels to the earlier meeting of Churchill and President Franklin Roosevelt.

His visit is unfolding amid extraordinary security. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wouldn’t even confirm the early reports that she’d welcome Zelensky to the US Capitol in an unexpected coda to her speakership, saying on Tuesday evening, “We don’t know yet. We just don’t know.”

A White House reception for Zelensky will above all be an unmistakable sign of US and Western support for Ukraine’s battle against Putin, who says the country has no right to exist. The war exemplifies what Biden has framed as a global struggle between democracy and totalitarianism, which he has put at the center of his foreign policy.

Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona, who visited Ukraine earlier this month, said on CNN’s “AC360” that Zelensky was coming to Washington on a specific mission.

“What he is trying to do is draw a direct correlation between our support and the survival and support and future victory of Ukraine,” Gallego, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said.

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