KYIV, Ukraine — Before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky was often brushed off as a former comedian who stumbled into the job of leading a nation with the seemingly naïve promise of cleaning up Ukraine’s endemic corruption.
After a quick trip Tuesday to the bloodiest theater in the war, he arrived in Washington on Wednesday a national hero and global superstar, having forged a leadership style blending personal daring with deft messaging to rally his people at home and his allies abroad.
That aura has served him and his country well to this point. But Mr. Zelensky arrives in Washington at a pivotal time for Ukraine, when his troops’ lightning counteroffensives from this fall are slowing down. He will be pleading for the more powerful weapons he believes Ukraine needs, but he will have to walk a fine line.
By taking a daring trip abroad during wartime, he is seeking to project strength and show confidence that Ukraine will ultimately prevail. But to make the case for continued financial and military support, he needs to draw attention to the dire threat Ukraine still faces without seeming weak.
“President Zelensky would like to present this trip as serious progress in the war,” Volodymyr Ariev, a member of Parliament in the opposition…