Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko addressed a joint session of Congress Thursday morning, showing off his improved English skills in a 40-minute address. In the preprepared speech, Poroshenko praised U.S. support of Ukraine but asked for more military aid, noting that the country “cannot win war with blankets.”
He also compared Russia’s annexation of Crimea to its previous high jinks in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and tossed around the possibility of future invasions elsewhere by pointing out the high number of Russians living throughout the region, and in Germany.
While Poroshenko talked about Russia and “Russian-inspired” separatists, the subtext of the speech clearly referred to Ukraine’s fears of Russian aggression. “I encourage you not to let Ukraine stand alone,” he said, and was met with applause from Congress.
The United States has called for sanctions against Russia and spoken out against its military aggressions, but has been reluctant to engage directly in the conflict. Instead, NATO pulled together a special force of several thousand troops, which can deploy to Eastern Europe in times of need.
Poroshenko also asked for aid reforming the country’s economic and justice systems, and said that the government has ignored repeated violations of the cease-fire from rebels. What’s happening now, he said, may well lead to a new Cold War.
Yet Poroshenko also said that nothing is off the table in his negotiations with separatists, except for dividing up Ukraine. He said the country has offered them unprecedented amounts of independence from federal rule.
“In Ukraine you don’t build a democracy, it already exists,” Poroshenko concluded. “You just defend it.”