On the same day he addressed Davos' World Economic Forum wherein he urged Western countries to impose "maximum economic sanctions" against Russia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Axios' Jonathan Swan in an interview for HBO that if Ukraine loses the war, American lives will be put at risk.
Zelensky was speaking in reference to NATO's collective defense treaty, suggesting that 'Russian imperialism' means there will be a domino effect of US-NATO allies to fall if Ukraine fails to achieve victory. "Members of the alliance should know and believe that if any country tries any aggression against them, then NATO, collectively, will provide for their defense," Zelensky told Swan.
"If we fall, if we don't hold the line, Russia will proceed, attacking the Baltic states — Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia" and smaller states to follow, resulting in NATO's Article 5 being invoked, which would see American troops sent to the region to face Russia directly.
"The US military will have to go to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, according to the fifth article, and they will have to fight there and die there," Zelensky emphasized in the interview.
Per the Axios summary of the fresh interview, Zelensky cast the current crisis as akin to the domino effect of Hitler's invasion of its neighbors in WWII:
- The history of World War II shows "what would have happened" if the U.S did not come to Europe's defense, Zelensky responded.
- "Ukraine is bordering with the Russian Federation, and we are the ones being attacked. If we fall, if we don't hold the line, Russia will proceed and attack the Baltic states" — forcing the U.S. to deploy troops to defend a NATO ally, Zelensky argued.
- "So what can I say to the people who think that this is just for Europe, this is far away, this is not in our backyard? This is somewhere in the world, but the world is much smaller than we think."
This is a variation of a continuing theme he's been echoing since at least early March: "If Ukraine falls, Europe falls," he's previously warned.
But it's anything but certain that Russia's President Vladimir Putin has ever had his sights set on expanding the 'special military operation' beyond Ukraine. For months leading up to the Feb. 24 invasion, he and his top officials warned constantly against the deepening relationship between Kiev and NATO, and Ukraine's militarization supported by Western allies. It seems from Moscow's point of view, the question of Ukraine's path to NATO was the 'last straw'.
It still remains, fortunately, that many Americans are simply still not buying it as pressure grows for more and more direct Washington involvement in the war against nuclear-armed Russia...
The karens and coffee shop baristas who want us to start WW3 because Zelensky is cute wouldn't put themselves at risk of breaking a nail on behalf of their own family... but they'll cheer on sending other Americans to die for something we have no business being in.— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) March 17, 2022
But as has been shown going back to his address before US Congress, Zelensky hasn't held back in utilizing emotional appeals aimed at US leaders and the American public more broadly. He previously urged Washington to "close the sky" - or impose a no fly zone which would ensure a direct shooting war between the US and Russia - rhetoric which he's since backed off of after Biden made it clear this was off the table.
As for Zelensky's virtual address to the Davos WEF, he urged global powers led by the US to implement a full range of "maximum sanctions" - listed as including a full embargo on Russian oil, barring Russian banks global systems, companies leaving the Russian IT sector, and for a ban on all trade with Russia. Zelensky said via a translator on Monday, "This is what sanctions should be: They should be maximum, so that Russia and every other potential aggressor that wants to wage a brutal war against its neighbor would clearly know the immediate consequences of their actions."
And coming just days after the Group of Seven countries pledged $19.8 billion to keep Ukraine's wartime economy afloat, the Ukrainian president added, "The amount of work is enormous: we have more than half a trillion of dollars in losses, tens of thousands of facilities were destroyed. We need to rebuild entire cities and industries." He further described that earlier full support would have resulted in "tens of thousands of lives saved."
With these latest comments to Axios, it seems Zelensky is casting Ukraine as the anti-Russian 'wall' of sorts holding back Russian aggression aimed at the rest of Europe.