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Zelenskyy Was Used By Joe Biden as a Pawn

Volodymyr Zelensky
Volodymyr Zelensky and Biden. White House Handout.

Americans need President Biden to explain what his strategy is for Ukraine, and why they should pay for it – Broad, bi-partisan support for the bravery exhibited by Ukrainians in general—and President Voldomyr Zelenskyy in particular—remains strong in America, but it is in danger of being eroded. Unfortunately, President Joe Biden invited the Ukrainian leader to come to Washington in the final days of the 117th Congress.  The purpose of the visit was not to shore up support for Ukraine but rather to ensure passage of the bloated omnibus spending bill, thereby making Ukraine a partisan rather than national security issue.

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The Biden administration cynically decided to cast votes on this $1.7 trillion package of domestic pork as a referendum on the $46 billion for Ukraine it contains.  This piece of political theater will only exacerbate the partisan divide Biden has created on this issue.  Of course, none of this was Zelenskyy’s fault, as he was in no position to refuse when the American president issued an invitation that was for all intents and purposes a command.

President Biden has framed support for Ukraine as a binary choice between appeasing Russian strongman Vladimir Putin and providing unlimited support for Ukraine—hence Zelenskyy’s appearance on the eve of the omnibus vote.  Americans should reject this false choice, regardless of their support for Ukraine or its president.  The U.S. Congress cannot issue a blank, undated check to anyone for any purpose, and lawmakers have every right to ask questions about these large expenditures on a conflict to which we are not party, especially given Biden’s failure to articulate a clear strategy outlining America’s vital national security interests in the war, and how he is prepared to support Ukrainian victory.

The incremental, tepid support the Biden administration has offered over the last 10 months appears to be perpetuating an uneasy stalemate in which Ukraine can survive, but cannot decisively win the war.  Given the ongoing hardships Ukrainians are enduring, not to mention the drain on America and our NATO allies, lawmakers should prioritize ending the war favorably to Kiev and Washington.  From an American perspective this would mean Putin agreeing to terms that render him militarily and/or politically deterred from venturing into Europe for the foreseeable future.  A worst-case scenario would be a wounded—but not defeated—Putin who could peddle the outcome as a quasi-victory to the Russian people and live to fight another day.  We need to end Putin’s pattern of territorial aggression in Europe, not repeat it yet again in five years’ time, when it might involve a NATO country requiring direct American engagement.

Conservatives should, however, resist the impulse to reflexively reject support for Ukraine, just as they are resisting the demand for “as much as it takes for as long as it takes.”  There is actually an argument to be made for escalating our military support to force Putin to spend money he doesn’t have to bolster his war effort—an echo of how Ronald Reagan won the Cold War.

We don’t need to mortgage our children’s future to achieve this end. Any additional aid requests should focus on providing the lethal military aid the U.S. can best supply. European countries, such as Germany and France, can and should take the lead on economic and civil society assistance where the U.S. is currently bearing a disproportionate burden.  But to be effective, such a strategy would have to be robustly supported by both parties and accompanied by the truly crushing American and EU economic sanctions the Biden administration has thus far been unwilling to impose due to concerns about domestic energy prices—once again demonstrating that U.S. national security is subject to the whims of the President’s political agenda.

Resistance to Russian aggression and the atrocities that have typified Putin’s invasion is something that both parties could continue to support.  But that unifying cause would have been much better served had Zelenskyy visited Washington two weeks from now to address the new 118th Congress that better reflects the current views of the American people.  How much more effective it would have been to have the Ukrainian president standing in front of a Democratic Vice President and a Republican Speaker of the House, sitting side by side.  He could also have engaged with the new majority in the House and enlisted their help in demonstrating the Ukrainian commitment to protecting U.S. support with unprecedented transparency and anti-corruption measures.

The timing of Zelenskyy’s trip made him little more than a pawn in the Democrats’ strategy to ensure lame-duck passage of yet another massively wasteful spending bill. To restore national unity on Ukraine, Zelenskyy would be well-advised to make another visit to Washington next year, and Biden should do the American people the courtesy of directly laying out to them his strategy to win the war.

Victoria Coates is a senior research fellow specializing in international affairs and national security issues at The Heritage Foundation’s Thatcher Center for Freedom.

Written By

Victoria Coates joined the American Foreign Policy Council as a Distinguished Fellow in Strategic Studies in January 2022. Coates works on regional issues such as energy policy, countering predatory Chinese activity, expanding the historic Abraham Accords between Israel and Muslim-majority nations, and establishing a U.S.-led Middle East strategic alliance. Coates routinely appears on TV and radio outlets such as Fox News, CNN, OANN, Newsmax, The Hugh Hewitt Show, The Erick Erickson Show, and The John Batchelor show. Her writing has appeared in Bloomberg,, The Jerusalem Post, The New York Post, Newsweek, The National Interest, National Review, The New Criterion, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Examiner, and The Washington Times.



  1. The Al U Know

    December 29, 2022 at 12:10 pm

    Ominous Omnibus.

    I’ve been arguing that the $100B plus sent to Ukraine being 1/8th of money that the USA spends on defense is significant.

    But geese, to wave that $45B around like it is your primary reason-d’etre, while behind it the government is ramming through $700B for other ‘lofty’ reasons. Can’t hide that elephant in the room. It is big too.

    Cough…interest groups..cough.

    Honestly though it helped that Zelensky crafted a decent speech for an English audience. And that specifics on the other parts of the bill are hard to find unless you are versed in .gov websites.

    Also too perhaps there would be their yearly government fears of a ‘shutdown’ had this bill not gone through.

    2023 is going to be a decisive year. The fed will heed the alarm of the recession whispers and plateau rate hikes before taking them down Q3/4. The recession will still happen.

    China will either get back on track with pre-pandemic production numbers or continued stagnation will pull the West along for the whiplash. If that happens consider any Taiwan invasion shelved for a bit more.

    Also, the longer the War in Ukraine goes on means more death and destruction. An inability to come to terms means more warfare. Which means more armament packages, which if the government tried like this one to shove more domestic filler through, they will have a tougher time convincing their Republican opponents to go in on. Going on, in support for Ukraine because a lot, if not most, Republicans support this- but wincing in alarm when they see another $700B elephant hiding behind it.

    Other car makers seem poised to challenge Tesla’s EV dominance.
    Apple may unveil something like Apple glasses and innovate like they were Apple from 2011.
    Epic Games/maker of Fortnite make outshine Meta and put out a high quality graphics, real-life practicality to the metaverse.

    Also, I am excited by robotics, which are set to increase significantly in the next decade. Less jobs? Higher quality ones? I don’t know. But we are no longer facing a population crisis, but an Old Age crisis. Also, military applications could be innovative.

  2. John R. Shanahan

    December 29, 2022 at 12:16 pm

    It is nice to read a conservative viewpoint here in support of Ukraine. We seem in agreement that this is a fight not just for Ukraine but in support of our values and the international rules based order we helped create and shape post WW2 that has prevented another world war.

    My sincere hope is that Republican leadership in the House will help to push President Biden into a more aggressive proactive policy to get this war won in 2023.

    I am happy that President Biden has led our country to provide such strong support, but I would like us to do more.

    President Biden’s current cautious and reactionary policy may seem prudent and safer, but it comes with its own pitfalls. It risks a stalemate and all of the negatives and risks that entails. It drags out the war which may actually increase the death, suffering, and destruction in Ukraine. It may also increase the economic pain, starvation, and possibility of political instability elsewhere.

    Lastly, it may actually save a lot of money getting this war won sooner. There will be less for us to help pay to rebuild. Less subsidies will be needed. Ukrainians will be able to demobilize and return home. Ukrainians will be able to get back to productive work rebuilding their lives and their country.

  3. Ben

    December 29, 2022 at 12:19 pm

    Congratulations to the author,
    you are as nonsensical and useful to Putin as only Daniel Davis managed to be up to now.

  4. Dr. Scooter Van Neuter

    December 29, 2022 at 12:24 pm

    Great article addressing the Biden administration’s devious and pathetic political wrangling at the cost of tens of thousands of lives.
    There is no exit strategy and anyone who believes Putin is suddenly going to throw his hands up and quit is a deluded idiot.

  5. Steven

    December 29, 2022 at 1:38 pm

    lol, you talk like the democrats give a damn about this country. hint-they dont.

  6. Jacksonian Libertarian

    December 29, 2022 at 1:38 pm

    “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake” Napoléon

    America/West has fallen into a “target of opportunity”. For a small fraction of America’s yearly Defense Budget (The war on terror cost $ Trillions, buckets of blood, and failed to create a single Democracy.), and a cleaning out of the West’s expiring and Soviet era weapons inventory. The West will destroy the Russian Military for a generation, Combat Test its smart weapons, send a message to all the belligerent Authoritarian Cultures (China, Iran, North Korea, etc.), expand and rejuvenate NATO, and protect/strengthen the nascent Democracy in Ukraine.

    The Axis of Evil is suffering a set back.

    Efforts to conflate American support for Ukraine with other political issues like the Border, or passing bloated budgets, are just politicians being manipulative scum as usual.

  7. Paddy Manning

    December 29, 2022 at 2:16 pm

    Great article.
    Thank you.
    America has a choice
    Help Ukraine and at the same time incapacitate a state and regime that is an enemy and an ally of a greater enemy or turn it’s back on every lesson of history and every correct decision made to oppose tyranny and aid freedom’s struggle and by immission, aid a murderous nuclear powered tyranny.

  8. David Chang

    December 29, 2022 at 4:06 pm

    God bless people in the world.

    Conservatives should think about Truman and Oppenheimer’s wrong decision, and oppose the sin of Presbyterian Church since 1776.

    As Democratic Party is destroying our military, two things show that Republican Party never do the best to stop Democratic Communist Party.

    One thing is that CV-42 defeated by coronavirus two years ago, so Navy shall make diet right to keep innate immune system.
    Another thing is that conservatives are defeated by Soviet Russia’s nuclear war tactic.

    United States cannot deter Soviet Russia with weapons, but Soviet Russia government officers make United States and NATO to be deterred by the unlaunched missile. Even though the B-2 bombers at Whiteman AFB are practicing aerial refueling this week, conservatives have no determination to fight the doomsday war with Soviet Russia, and watching Democratic Party cooperate with Communist Party to destroy America, then to destroy the world.

    So conservatives should obey Ten Commandments, remember the warnings of Moses and Jesus, and repent to God.

    Conservatives should not say: Because of my righteousness the Lord has given me this land; when it is because of their evil-doing that the Lord is driving these nations out before you. But should remember: For nation will be moved against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, but all these things are the first of the troubles, and we will see the abomination of desolation stand in the holy place.

    God bless America.

  9. The Al U Know

    December 29, 2022 at 4:30 pm

    Look at that elephant of an omnibus bill they passed behind that $47B ‘Ukrainian saviour'(of their government salaries, paying back the financing the Ukr Railway owes World Bank) portion of the bill:

    $582M for cancer research. Okay.
    $500M plus for the Virgin, Micronesian and Samoan Islands… combat HIV/AIDs…….okay.
    $63M for the Horse Protection Act……….to be expended when the dept. wants……..okay. Are we shipping them to Ukraine?? Can the govt collect their biowaste to bio-reactors to offset the power lost from closing down coal and nat gas.

    Nearly $2M for Bio-defense in Agriculture. Guess that is all they get from the $600M in the profits pharmaceuticals got in the first quarter of the pandemic.

    7,200 community projects are getting funded. DEI ESG Inquisitions organizations anyone?

    This is only the first 10% of the bill before my phone bugs out from how big the .gov doc is.

    I am starting to feel Zelensky got lucky, despite only getting one Patriot, guns and ammo. No more Leo’s, HIMARs(20 are good enough, ergo no more for now), or any air power besides Mi-4 marine helps.

  10. 403Forbidden

    December 29, 2022 at 4:42 pm

    Biden is the shining example of american exceptionalism and symbol of govt as a perfectly legit criminal enterprise.

    Dementia joe is using to the full his appointment as chief executive to prosecute his personal vendetta against russia & putin who he thinks interfered against democrat party and hunter to help trump.

    As a result, he has blood on his hands and shimming up the prospect of leading humankind to the forbidden gates of megiddo in this century.

    Biden is totally untrustworthy, with a lifelong history of lying and fibbing, fond of recollecting or uttering all the wrong names & places, even dead people and making gaffes and silly stupid nonsensical anecdotes.

    Biden is unfit to be pres, but he is now in the white house, secretly planning for world war number three as his parting gift to america.

  11. GhostTomahawk

    December 29, 2022 at 4:59 pm

    So the choices are:

    Support blank check writing for Ukraine as patriotic…

    Want accountability and oversight equals pro Russian propaganda…

    Sounds like group A is dictating the talking points.

    How about this: Have the Ukraine spending on 1 bill and the reckless spending on another.

  12. TheDon

    December 29, 2022 at 5:36 pm

    A war with US troops again transporting across seas, taking care of wounded, would cost 1000x this amount.
    Ukraine is doing what the running Iraqis and afghan citizens could have done without us support, stood up.
    Russia’s military is severely weakened without US boots.
    The author forgets, if Russia was successful a year ago the expansion would have continued.
    Bidens support weakened the military to a point where even small euopean countries are sending weapons unafraid of consequences.
    The russians may be inflicting many casualties but so are Ukrainians.
    The difference, its an honor in Ukraine and in Russia they fight because Putin makes them.
    The Russians are being subject to same requirements Hitler forced.
    So a few billion is cheap compared to our involvement, showed russian weakness, severely damaged their trained troops to where they have to buy wagners and prison inmates to help.
    Still a threat with some very potential weapons to be cautious of, but definitely weakened.
    Their alliance with china will go great until they realize china makes all their goods and wants their good comrad food supplies.
    Russias making a huge future mistake.
    Biden has done what no other President dared in face of nuclear threat, he still delivered.

    Russians will soon realize Putin cares more about his pride than their lives, they have common ancestry in Ukraine, and overthrow this insane leader.

  13. Walker

    December 29, 2022 at 5:47 pm

    So the author says we need to increase spending to ensure that Ukraine wins. And that Congress needs to work together to accomplish this….

    So what is the author complaining about? That is exactly what happened. For Congress to work together compromises must be made. That includes pork. So I’m left with the feeling that the Author is just angry that it is Biden that is doing what she wants and not a Republican. Since she got what she wanted, she has to complain about the process.

  14. froike

    December 29, 2022 at 6:00 pm

    Great Article!

  15. Jerry Clyde

    December 29, 2022 at 7:53 pm

    Resisting totalitarian aggression seems like a pretty good cause. Strange how “conservatives” have lost their nerve. Maybe something about following Heel Spurs Commandant?

  16. Jerry Clyde

    December 29, 2022 at 7:55 pm

    US action is worth the money for exposing Russia as the impotent paper tiger it really is.

  17. David Chang

    December 30, 2022 at 9:45 am

    Jerry Clyde:

    God bless people in the world.

    This article is about the inflation, defense budget, monetary policy, and government bonds interest rate.

    Conservatives have courage to fight with traditional weapon, but don’t want to fight with N-weapon, because of Biden.

    Biden’s claim that N-war is not acceptable. But his words are the usual policy of Democratic party to against nuclear weapons and nuclear power plant. And Democratic Party do not admit that they are the first political party in history of using N-weapon.

    However, conservatives should admit that it is impossible to prevent socialism parties from using N-weapons, such as Oppenheimer, Truman, and Stalin, Zelenskyy, Biden, Kennedy, and Putin, all of whom would use N-weapons for their own benefit. So conservatives should claim the importance of missile defense system and the danger of electromagnetic war.

    God bless America.

  18. Friend

    December 30, 2022 at 10:38 am

    Oh that’s right blame the victim.
    They’ve been pawned into getting shot at for being aggressively non puppeted. Their non demilitarization habits have forced the hand of the poor russian peasant to have the rise up again and kill the Nazi monster. Their hands not being cuffed is totally provocative. It’s against God and good morals.

  19. Omega 13

    December 30, 2022 at 11:38 am

    Biden isn’t doing squat. He doesn’t even change his own Depends. His handlers ARE doing everything.

    This money going to Ukraine is being laundered and sent back (minus a commission) to democrats. Traitors!

  20. tokyowoes

    December 30, 2022 at 9:30 pm

    i forgot. how much cash did foolish American send?

  21. krc020

    January 1, 2023 at 3:45 pm

    Joe Biden is too stupid to make a pawn of anyone.

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