Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called on the United States to take the lead in beating back Russia's ongoing aggression toward Ukraine, and asked directly for the U.S. to provide more aid, including military aid.
"They need more military equipment, both lethal and non-lethal, urgently," he said of Ukraine's fighters in a speech to a joint session of Congress on Thursday.
Ukranian president Petro Poroshenko on Thursday called on Congress to keep aiding Ukraine in its fight against Russia and pro-Russia separatists. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press,Adrian Wyld)
"Blankets, night-vision goggles are also important," he said. "But one cannot win the war with blankets. Even more, we cannot keep the peace with a blanket."
While the annexation of Crimea has faded somewhat in the minds of Congress, Poroshenko repeatedly called Ukraine's fight against Russia a "war" that is still happening, as pro-Russia separatists continue to fight in Eastern Ukraine. He said Ukraine is at the center of a fight against a militaristic and expansionist Russia that is similar to the old Soviet Union that many think no longer exists.
"The Soviet Union have collapsed too quickly, creating the illusion that this chapter in history was closed, and that this story has come to the end," he said. "But unfortunately… it has not ended. Their imperialistic mindset is still there."
"An external aggressor decided to take away part of Ukrainian territory. The annexation of Crimea become one of the most cynical acts of treachery in the modern history," he added.
He rejected Russia's "barbarism" and its decision to annex Ukraine earlier this year, and act that Poroshenko said will make security ripples throughout the world, but especially in Europe. He said Russia's aggression has already taken its toll in neighboring countries, and asked, "Who is the next?"
"Post-war international system of checks and balances was effectively ruined," he said of Russia's ability to quickly take control of Crimea. "The world has plunged into the worst security crisis since U.S.-USSR standoff in 1962."
"So I urge you not to let Ukraine… stand alone in the face of this aggression," he pleaded. But he also said that while American aid is needed, and he appreciates that many Americans are war-weary, the U.S. does not need to worry about nation-building.
"In Ukraine, you don't build a democracy. It already exists. You just defend it," he said to applause. "I am absolutely sure that the United States made a commitment that it would stand behind Ukraine's territorial integrity, and we hope that it will live put to that promise."
Poroshenko spoke in the crowded House chamber, with Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) right behind him. While Republicans and Democrats have been fighting for years on domestic issues, Poroshenko praised the unity of the American government and said he was overwhelmed in its presence.
"It's impossible to imagine what I'm feeling right now," he said as he started his address. "This is exactly what Ukraine now needs the most — unity and solidarity. Not only with the United States Congress, not only with the United States, but with the whole world."