Who Can Say No to Volodymyr Zelensky?

FACING ONE OF THE GREAT PRESIDENTIAL CHALLENGES since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, Joe Biden will have to say no to Volodymyr Zelensky. The dynamic and articulate Ukrainian president will virtually address Congress this morning, pleading for a no-fly zone and fighter jets.

BIDEN KNOWS THAT U.S. PUBLIC OPINION favors giving Ukraine more assistance, and the mood in Congress is to do more. But intelligence experts worry that Vladimir Putin — humiliated by battlefield defeats and the prospect of an imminent debt default — could lash out even more viscously in coming days if Biden approves Zelensky’s requests.

AFTER ELECTRIFYING THE BRITISH AND CANADIAN PARLIAMENTS, the emotional Zelensky is likely to receive a rapturous reception today. Who can say no? Biden will have to.

U.S. OFFICIALS are emphasizing that America already has sent Ukraine over 600 stinger anti-aircraft systems, roughly 2,600 Javelin anti-armor systems, 200 grenade launchers and nearly 40 million rounds of small-arms ammunition. More weapons are coming from the U.S. and NATO countries.

BUT ANY SCENARIO THAT involves NATO jets firing on Russian jets is viewed with apprehension at the Pentagon, where officials do not dismiss the possibility of a nuclear confrontation.

SO MORE CONVENTIONAL WEAPONS will be sent to Ukraine, along with massive humanitarian aid. And Biden will tighten the screws on the crumbling Russian economy.

THE DESTRUCTION OF KYIV has begun, which will simply motivate Ukrainians to fight more aggressively; many of its citizens are returning from Poland to confront the Russians. We still believe Russia cannot win this war; its troops are hungry and demoralized — and the Ukrainians know every street and alley in Kyiv.

THE GREAT RISK is that the war criminal Putin will resort to biological and chemical weapons, as he did in Syria — which would so infuriate the American public that Biden may have no choice but to say yes to Zelensky later this spring.

FINDING AN “OFF RAMP” for Putin thus is absolutely crucial in the coming weeks; without one, the scenarios will become even more lethal and frightening as two nuclear powers come perilously close to a confrontation.

Related: A Crucial Day Ahead as Negotiations Intensify

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