Ukrainian President Volodymyr 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.
Over days of brainstorming and meetings – fueled by Churchill’s regime of sherry with breakfast, Scotch and sodas for lunch, champagne in the evening and a tipple of 90-year-old brandy before bed – the two leaders plotted the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan and laid the foundation of the Western alliance that Biden has reinvigorated in his support for Ukraine.
Churchill, who had pined for US involvement in World War II for months and knew it was the key to defeating Adolf Hitler, said during his visit, “I spend this anniversary and festival far from my country, far from my family, and yet I cannot truthfully say that I feel far from home.”
Zelensky is sure to get that kind of hero’s welcome and will hope that extra US support will mean that Washington has truly “drawn the sword for freedom and cast away the scabbard,” as Churchill said of the Roosevelt administration in his address to Congress on Dec. 26, 1941.
The Ukrainian leader is likely to appreciate the historical parallels. He paraphrased one of Churchill’s most famous wartime speeches in an emotional address to British members of parliament in March. “We will not surrender, we will not lose, we will go to the end.”