President Zelensky I’m writing to you as a last resort. You are my only remaining hope. The subject is how to curb growing Ukraine “fatigue.” Your tireless, successful efforts to win the support of many world leaders for Ukraine’s survival have been heroic.

Unfortunately, support for Ukraine is being eroded by Republican members of Congress who are exploiting Ukraine fatigue for political dividends. This will only increase as the 2024 US presidential campaign heats up.

A second level of support

It is an egregious misconception to think that winning the support of many world leaders is sufficient to combat growing Ukraine fatigue. There is another equally important level that is currently being neglected. Western leaders must also have and continually build the support of their increasingly war weary citizenry – a significant challenge, indeed.

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Missing a golden opportunity

Currently, Ukraine is missing a golden opportunity in its fight against Ukraine fatigue. The key to turning the tide lies in developing Ukrainian messaging that appeals directly to the American public, touches their hearts, and sustains their support for a prolonged war. Such support is crucial leverage over Republican members of Congress who oppose further aid to Ukraine.

After nearly two years of war in Ukraine, Americans, like so many others, are understandably war weary. Many, in fact, find all nightly news toxic and avoid it like the plague. To my surprise, I often hear even well-educated Americans ask: “Is the war still going on?” These are good Americans.

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A day earlier, Spain pledged one billion euros in military aid, with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Zelensky signing their own security deal in Madrid.

However, average Americans are not news junkies. They don’t watch CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News nonstop. They prefer lighter programming. Viewed in this context, Ukraine fatigue is war weariness, a natural and progressive phenomenon which can be exploited by cynical politicians, but also one that is preventable with a proactive strategy.

It’s not too late for Ukraine to add the powerful tool of American commercial TV to its current strategy to combat Ukraine fatigue.

A serious strategic shortcoming

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President Zelensky, unfortunately, little has been done by your besieged administration to build sustained American public support for Ukraine, especially during this second year of Ukraine’s ongoing war. How do I know this? I developed a detailed strategy to combat this fatigue at the level of average Americans. A month ago, I sent copies of my detailed initiative to the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington (by registered mail) and to Ukraine’s Foreign, Defense, and Health Ministers, and to several members of Ukraine’s Parliament. Zero response!

Very disappointed, but undeterred, I have continued my efforts here in Ukraine. As a last resort, I reach out to you, President Zelensky, with the following proposal. But first a few facts.

Facts

  • Putin, with his powerful propaganda machine, is currently winning the information war with respect to Ukraine fatigue. This is evident in growing Republican opposition to future aid for Ukraine, which Putin is fueling.
  • American commercial TV can turn the tide on growing Ukraine fatigue in America. It can touch the hearts of Americans with nightly snapshots of Ukraine’s invincible wounded warriors defending American values.
  • Over the course of nearly two years, Ukraine has gathered a growing arsenal of compelling images and stories about its invincible heroes that can be shared nightly on American TV in very brief commercials.
  • Ukraine is probably unprecedented in the number of its seriously wounded warriors who return to the battlefield daily after receiving medical care, including prostheses – a true reflection of their uncommon fighting spirit.

A proactive, long-term, feasible strategy

But is harnessing American commercial TV a feasible strategy for Ukraine? Here it is important to understand America’s TV culture. Nightly TV viewing in America includes programming interrupted by numerous fundraising commercials: (US) Wounded Warriors’ Project, Save the Children – St. Jude’s Hospital, and Mercy Medical Ship to name just a few. Viewed in this commercial TV context, it would be perfectly normal, appropriate, and effective for Ukraine to add commercials showing its courageous defenders of democracy.

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This can be done with very short 15-30 second commercials, and occasional one-minute videos. Doing so would add another critical level of support to Ukraine’s current strategy which focuses on winning the support of Western leaders to counter Ukraine fatigue messaging from Putin and Republican members of Congress.

An image is worth a thousand words

Three examples of potential “No Pity,” invincible Ukrainian warrior TV ads:

  • Image of four uniformed and armed Ukrainian invincible warriors (three male and one female) standing abreast, each with a visible prosthetic limb. The caption atop the image reads: UKRAINE FATIGUE? NEVER! Followed by: “We’re still standing and defending democracy. Please stand with us!”
  • Image of four Ukrainian emergency workers (they’re also often Ukraine’s wounded warriors) digging survivors out from under the rubble caused daily by ceaseless Russian bombing. The caption atop the image reads: UKRAINE FATIGUE? NEVER! “We’re still digging and defending democracy. Please support us!”
  • Image of four Ukrainian volunteer workers (they’re also often Ukraine’s wounded warriors) distributing loaves of bread to hungry elderly with outstretched hands after driving under fire through Russian mined areas to the frontlines. Caption atop image reads: UKRAINE FATIGUE? NEVER! “We’re still standing and defending democracy!”

The image conveyed in these types of brief TV commercials should be of indefatigable, often disabled frontline warriors with the simple message of Ukraine’s TV campaign: “Americans, thank you for your support and confidence in us. Together we are invincible in defending democracy.”

Israel’s bold example

The good news is that it’s not too late for Ukraine to add the powerful tool of American commercial TV to its current strategy to combat Ukraine fatigue. The need for it will only increase with time as the ongoing war and inevitable war weariness progress.

Significantly, Israel lost no time in seizing its golden opportunity. Just one day after Hamas’ vicious attack upon it, Israel launched and has sustained a sophisticated stream of short daily commercials on American TV intended to touch the hearts of Americans and build US Congressional support for major aid for Israel. Ukraine should do the same.

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President Zelensky, please seize Ukraine’s golden opportunity to build crucial American public support and combat Ukraine fatigue.

The views expressed in this opinion article are the author’s and not necessarily those of Kyiv Post.

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