The first thing I noticed during my latest trip to Washington, DC., back from Kyiv, is that unlike the last time, when I was delighted by the dozens of Ukrainian flags hung outside of Americans’ businesses and homes, I have only noticed one so far. People no longer strike up conversations when they notice my US-Ukraine lapel pin, and American news no longer leads with Ukraine.


Now, a majority of Republicans oppose further assistance to Ukraine.


What went wrong?


The key rule that Kyiv broke was that it did not play by the rules of Washington’s game. Specifically, the Ukrainians did not hire a lobbyist.


“Ukraine needs to make the case, to normal Americans, why Ukraine matters to America,” said one person with more than 40 years of experience working in the US Congress.



“Ukrainian delegations come to Washington, DC, give talks at the Atlantic Council, Wilson Center, or National Endowment for Democracy, which is just flushing money down the toilet,” he continued.


He suggested that “Ukrainians visiting the US need to be going to Ohio, not DC, where the leaders there [like Senator JD Vance] oppose Ukraine. Ohio has a massive population of ethnic Ukrainians and Poles. It also produces Abrams Tanks. Go there and say, ‘We are not here for anything other than to say “thank you, America,”’ and explain how supporting Ukrainians creates jobs in Ohio.”

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He also insisted that the visiting Ukrainian delegations should explain how people of Ohio would not need to die fighting Russia. They should say, “Ukraine is already making those sacrifices, and we thank our partners for their support.” 


This, normally, would then be repeated with digital and TV ads, in specific “toss-up” congressional districts, along with interviews, so that the “average Joe” takes the Ukraine cause to be his cause, too.



These sorts of campaigns, explained one lobbyist, are meant to show how Ukraine’s interests overlap with America’s interests: We are on the same team.


“Can you imagine,” the veteran lobbyist asked, “how much it would connect with blue-collar Americans if Wladimir Klitschko were to show up at a UFC fight in a toss-up state, along with the local congressman, and say, ‘Ukrainians know how to fight. Today we are fighting for our country: Thank you for being in the fight with us.’?”


A natural ally of Ukraine, which has never been tapped into, is America’s military industrial complex. Nearly half of all discretionary spending in the US – that is, for “optional” things that can be cut, unlike social security or welfare, which people are legally entitled to – goes to the military.


Ukraine should seek out the defense lobbyists and “get them on board” to team up and make the case that arming Ukraine is good for America, not only Ukraine.


Thus far, Ukraine has missed “a lot of opportunities,” and there is no guarantee that it will pull through.



However, for Ukraine, which has received more than half of all military support from the US, there is no option but to urgently try new approaches to reach out to Americans, across the US – not only in Washington, DC.



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


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