Is Zelenskyy’s 'ungrateful' act causing him to lose his luster?

Back in June of 2022, President Biden lashed out at Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky regarding his never-ending demands for U.S. aid.

President Biden had barely finished telling Zelensky over the phone that he had just approved another $1 billion in U.S. military assistance when the Ukrainian leader started listing all the additional things he wanted and wasn’t getting. According to multiple sources, Biden lost his temper and yelled that Zelensky should be showing more gratitude for the billions in aid he was getting from the United States via the American people. 

One year later, the Biden administration is addressing Zelensky’s seeming ingratitude once again. While President Biden was in Vilnius, Lithuania, for the NATO summit, his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, snuck in a barb clearly directed at Zelensky without uttering his name. In rebutting criticism from Zelensky for not extending NATO membership to his nation, Sullivan said the U.S. “deserves a degree of gratitude” for the billions in U.S. taxpayer dollars it has already provided in the defense of Ukraine. 

A “degree”? Some might say our nation deserves the whole thermometer, as U.S. aid to Ukraine equals or exceeds all of Europe’s combined. 

Sullivan spoke up after Zelensky shockingly whined via Twitter that the Biden administration’s stand on NATO membership for Ukraine was “unprecedented and absurd.” 

Zelensky added: “It seems there is no readiness neither to invite Ukraine to NATO nor to make it a member of the Alliance. This means that a window of opportunity is being left to bargain Ukraine’s membership in NATO in negotiations with Russia. And for Russia, this means motivation to continue its terror. Uncertainty is weakness.”


His act is apparently even wearing thin with some of his own top people. In response to Zelensky’s mocking reply to British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace suggesting Ukraine should be more grateful for Western support, Vadym Prystaiko, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, said: “I don’t believe that this sarcasm is healthy. We don’t have to show the Russians that we have something between us. They have to know that we are working together. If anything happens, Ben can call me and tell me anything he wants.”

Soon after those common-sense and diplomatically wise remarks were spoken, Zelensky fired Prystaiko.

I raised all of this with a former high-level Pentagon official, who stressed: “Zelensky is acting like a spoiled, petulant child who gets everything he wants and it’s still not enough. Many in the U.S. government and many of our citizens are growing tired of his act. I can assure you he is burning bridges in Europe as well. There is only so much money and good will to go around.”

That last point is not lost on the American public. The latest Gallup poll on the subject reported: “43% of Americans, a new high, say the U.S. is doing the ‘right amount’ to help Ukraine. Meanwhile, there has been a 12-percentage-point decline to 26% since August 2022 in the percentage saying the U.S. isn’t doing enough to assist Ukraine — as well as a slight increase in the percentage saying the U.S. is doing too much, now 29%.”

In other words, with each passing month, more and more Americans from across the political spectrum are starting to question the U.S. commitment to Ukraine and just how much is enough. 

But the Biden administration — despite its reported rebukes of Zelensky — shows no signs of slowing the support. As reported by Reuters: “The United States will announce a new pledge to buy $1.3 billion worth of military aid for Kyiv in its conflict with Russia in the coming days … The United States is using funds in its Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI) program, which allow President Joe Biden’s administration to buy weapons from industry rather than pull from U.S. weapons stocks.”

Good for Ukraine and defense contractors, but bad for U.S. taxpayers or those seeking strict accountability regarding the billions in money, aid and military supplies continually going into the war-torn country.

With regard to our nation having a deeper understanding of exactly where the money and aid is going, the Biden White House voiced opposition to a provision in the defense bill that would create an inspector general for Ukraine aid.

Why? Curious to be sure.

While there is clearly resentment building regarding Zelensky’s perceived lack of appreciation for the money and munitions the West is sending his way, the spigot for those supplies remains wide open.

But for how long? 

Biden and his team may want to keep sending unaccounted-for billions to Ukraine, but more Americans seem to want to pump the brakes heading into the next series of endless curves. A trend which is likely to grow as the American people take a harder look at the horrific consequences of the war while also deciding to view Zelensky at ground level instead atop a pedestal. 

Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.

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