The man-of-war entered a buttoned-up room dressed in the power of American politicians.
Clad in khaki and with an air of polite exhaustion, Volodymyr Zelensky received the adulation of a man fighting their fight as much as his.
It was certainly the message he carried in the well of the hemicycle of the Chamber, a call from the heart of the battle which relayed the reality of the suffering in his country.
It earned him repeated standing ovations – not, however, from all.
The cameras picked out Republican representatives who sat defiantly as everyone around them rose to cheers. It was an image that spoke to the skepticism surrounding continued aid to Ukraine.
Their host is aware of this – hence the need he felt to insist that, in an interconnected world, tyranny would not stop at Ukraine.
American support, he said, is not a charity but an investment.
He can only hope Republicans will deliver the message in the new year when they take control of the House of Representatives.
His sentiments were certainly shared by the vast majority of his hosts and, for the absence of doubt, there was accompanying text.
It came in a letter to Nancy Pelosi’s colleagues in the hours before Speaker Zelenskyy addressed the joint session of Congress.
The outgoing Speaker of the House of Representatives spoke of a ‘meaningful’ occasion for her because her father had been a member of the House when Winston Churchill addressed a joint session of Congress in 1941, during World War II .
Two wartime leaders addressing Congress in wartime—to draw parallels was to sharpen perspectives.
Warnings about conflict and its consequences have also been echoed by US President Biden.
During the meeting at the White House between the two, the new pals behaved like old pals.
It’s a relationship cemented by mutual interest and a shared press conference that oozes chemistry and good humor.
They bonded over a common struggle – Ukraine’s war/America’s proxy war.
Mr. Biden’s engagement on the Patriot missiles is a calculated call, an escalation of American involvement and yet one that will not change the rules of engagement for the United States.
He will have appreciated hearing Mr. Zelenskyy declare that it is American weapons he needs, not American personnel to operate them.
If President Biden is to make a bid to stay in office in the 2024 election — his decision is expected early next year — then how the Ukraine conflict unfolds will define his chances, if not his presidency as a whole.
American support is motivated, of course, by a moral imperative to support Ukraine and its people. There is also the small question of the geopolitical dividend – a weakened Russia is a strengthened America.
And a Russia weakened by US-led strategy is an America strengthened.
That visit gave Volodymyr Zelenskyy a prime-time profile, but he wasn’t the only player.
Such is the politics of war.