Volodymyr Zelensky’s well-rehearsed approach to Western parliaments

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, and its speech before the european parliament on March 1, Volodymyr Zelensky intensifies his international diplomatic campaign. After a week of daily speeches before the US Congress, the German lower house and the Swiss, Israeli and Italian parliaments, the President of Ukraine addresses the French National Assembly and Senate on Wednesday, March 23, at 3:00 p.m.

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Every time he receives a standing ovation, the Ukrainian president always intervenes by videoconference from Ukraine, in his language (simultaneously translated), like a warlord, dressed in military uniform and sitting in front of his country’s flag. His modus operandi is well established. Everywhere he applies the same recipe.

Custom Historical References

In each of his speeches, Volodymyr Zelensky personalizes his comments according to his audience. Invokes significant events or popular characters, known by the greatest number, for example Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and playwright William Shakespeare outside the British House of Commons.

In the American Congress, remember how much the United States has “pages that allow you to understand Ukrainians”like the attack of Pearl Port In 1941, the terrorist attacks in September 11, 2001 or the famous speech “I have a dream” of Martin Luther King.

In front of the Bundestag, he implores “Destroy This Wall” erected in Central Europe; a reference to the speech by US President Ronald Reagan, who in 1987 asked his Russian counterpart to destroy the Berlin Wall.

Some of his references are not unanimous. Before the Israeli Knesset, Volodymyr Zelensky urges Israel to “make your choice”emphasizing his own Jewish heritage. “The Kremlin is using Nazi terminology, the Nazis were talking about a ‘final solution’ for the Jewish question, they will never forget it, and now Moscow is talking about a ‘final solution’ for Ukraine,” he hammers. TO comparison with the Holocaust judged “scandalous” by Israel’s Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel.

A common appeal to emotion.

“These references ‘speak’ to different audiences and provoke strong emotions, analysis for franceinfo Tatiana Kastouéva-Jean, researcher at the French Institute of International Relations (Ifri). They appeal to other people’s deepest traumas, to their historical memory, to arouse empathy and the desire to support Ukrainians against repetitions of historical tragedies.”

“Communication is the main weapon of the Ukrainians in this war, and Zelensky masters it wonderfully. It has already helped him win the informational and moral war.”

Tatiana Kastouéva-Jean, Ifri researcher

in franceinfo

Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized empathy to raise awareness of the Ukrainian cause in one speech in particular: the one he delivered to the US Congress on March 16. For two minutes and thirty seconds, out of a total of six minutes broadcast on American television CNN (in English), The Ukrainian president released a video that brought together shocking images of Russian bombing in Ukraine, resuscitation of the wounded, bodies of dead children.

“You have to be aware that the Ukrainian society and its political class are going through a traumatic shock. For Ukraine, we are in a historic moment, recalls Alexandra Goujon, professor of political science at the University of Burgundy, author of Ukraine, from independence to war (ed. Blue Rider, November 2021). The transmission of the images is consistent with what many Ukrainians feel. They are afraid of being forgotten, abandoned, when they know what they owe to Western support. These images are then used as an argument to justify the help requested.”

Specific requests to each

Two objectives motivate the Ukrainian president’s diplomatic offensive, according to Alexandra Goujon. First of all, “guarantee the support of Western partners, in particular military support”. bath, “guarantee the firmness of Westerners against Russia in terms of sanctions”.

The President of Ukraine makes specific requests to each parliament. In the American, the creation of a no-fly zone over Ukraine. In German, stop the Nord Stream 2 pipeline projectconsidered by Zelensky as “the cement for the new wall” that would separate East from West, thus recalling the specter of the Cold War. After making the comparison with the children of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the leader spoke of the fate of “97 children” Ukrainians killed in bombing “schools, hospitals, homes.”

Diplomatic work began a long time ago

With one speech per day the week of March 14 the pace was kept up. But these interventions are not new for the Ukrainian president, emphasizes Alexandra Goujon. “Since his election in 2019, Volodymyr Zelensky has been doing ‘active’ diplomacy. Even before the war, he was moving around a lot, remember Specialist in Ukraine. He knows that the support of Western partners is essential in his relationship with Russia.”

His speeches to Western parliaments are not necessarily the result of Ukrainian requests. Speaking before the European Parliament is, for example, “pretty standard and normal”, recalls Olivier Costa, director of research at the CNRS. “In each monthly session, one person (head of state, activist, president in exile, pope…) is invited to speak, often in relation to a current event.”

Volodymyr Zelensky’s speech to French parliamentarians on Wednesday is, on the contrary, something special”, Valéria Faure-Muntian points out on franceinfo, LREM MP by Loire and originally from Ukraine. The interest of the Ukrainian president is, according to Olivier Costa, to have “Opinion broadcasts with the media and the executive, but also to convince people to vote for support plans and therefore budgets, at a national level”. The European Parliament specialist concludes: “You have to have allies.”

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