Mar 16, 2022 - World

Zelensky has mastered the new way to reach the masses

Photo: Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Almost everything about today's Volodymyr Zelensky speech would have been inconceivable on the day Russia invaded Ukraine.

The big picture: Zelensky is bursting through an era of peak cynicism.

Who would have expected...

  • Zelensky — unshaven, unbowed — to address Congress from Kyiv, when the city was supposed to fall in the initial days?
  • Zelensky to seize the bully pulpit, calling on the U.S. to behave like a superpower?

His speech evoked imagery of a youthful JFK, in his day the master of the new medium of TV, Axios politics editor Glen Johnson tells me.

  • Zelensky is 44, using cellphone cameras and Zoom.
Zelensky virtually addresses Congress from Kyiv. Photo: Ukrainian Presidency/Handout/ Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

"Remember Pearl Harbor, the terrible morning of Dec. 7, 1941, when your sky was black from the planes attacking you,” Zelensky told a packed auditorium in the basement of the Capitol.

  • “Remember Sept. 11, a terrible day in 2001 when evil tried to turn your cities, independent territories, into battlefields. When innocent people were attacked from the air.”
  • "Our country is experiencing the same every day, right now, at this moment,” Zelensky said. “Every night for three weeks now ... Russia has turned the Ukrainian sky into a source of death for thousands of people."
  • Addressing Biden directly, Zelensky said, "I wish for you to be the leader of the world. Being the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace."

After the speech, Biden said Zelensky "was convincing" and called Putin a war criminal.

The bottom line: Zelensky's pleas rekindled congressional talk of supporting a no-fly zone over Ukraine, reports Axios' Sophia Cai and Andrew Solender.

  • "I wouldn't say [a no-fly zone] is off the table," House Democratic Caucus Chair Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) told Axios.
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