In a gesture of solidarity, President Joe Biden made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Monday, February 20, 2023 to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Speaking alongside Zelenskyy at Mariinsky Palace, Biden recalled the fears nearly a year ago that Russia’s invasion forces might quickly take the Ukrainian capital. “One year later, Kyiv stands,” Biden said.
“And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you,” Biden added.
The Ukraine visit comes at a crucial moment in the war as Biden looks to keep allies unified in their support for Ukraine as the war is expected to intensify with both sides preparing for spring offensives.
Zelenskyy is pressing allies to speed up delivery of pledged weapon systems and is calling on the West to deliver fighter jets to Ukraine, something that Biden to date has declined to do.
In Kyiv, Biden announced an additional half-billion dollars in U.S. assistance, including shells for howitzers, anti-tank missiles, air surveillance radars and other aid but no new advanced weaponry.
Zelenskyy said he and Biden spoke about “long range weapons and the weapons that may still be supplied to Ukraine even though it wasn’t supplied before.” But he did not detail any new commitments.
Biden also got a short firsthand taste of the terror that Ukrainians have lived with for close to a year, as air raids sirens howled over the capital just as he and Zelenskyy were exiting the gold-domed St. Michael’s Cathedral, which they visited together.
Looking solemn, they continued unperturbed as they laid a wreath and held a moment of silence at the Wall of Remembrance honoring Ukrainian soldiers killed since 2014.
Biden’s mission with his visit to Kyiv, which comes ahead of a scheduled trip to Warsaw, Poland, is to underscore that the United States is prepared to stick with Ukraine “as long as it takes” to repel Russian forces even as public opinion polling suggests that U.S. and allied support for providing weaponry and direct economic assistance has started to soften.
Biden’s Visit Is No Small Thing
For Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the symbolism of having the U.S. President stand side by side with him on Ukrainian land as the anniversary nears is no small thing.
“I thought it was critical that there not be any doubt, none whatsoever, about U.S. support for Ukraine in the war,” Biden said.
Also, Biden’s visit marked an act of defiance against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who had hoped his military would swiftly overrun Kyiv within days.
Biden recalled speaking with Zelenskyy on the night of the invasion, saying, “That dark night one year ago, the world was literally at the time bracing for the fall of Kyiv. Perhaps even the end of Ukraine.”
A year later, the Ukrainian capital remains firmly in Ukrainian control, and a semblance of normalcy has returned to the city as the fighting has concentrated in the country’s east, punctuated by cruise missile and drone attacks against military and civilian infrastructure.
Biden warned that the “brutal and unjust war” is far from won.
“The cost that Ukraine has had to bear has been extraordinarily high. And the sacrifices have been far too great,” Biden said.
“We know that there’ll be very difficult days and weeks and years ahead but Russia’s aim was to wipe Ukraine off the map. Putin’s war of conquest is failing. He’s counting on us not sticking together. He thought he could outlast us. I don’t think he’s thinking that right now. God knows what he’s thinking, but I don’t think he’s thinking that. But he’s just been plain wrong. Plain wrong.”President Joe Biden
The trip gave Biden an opportunity to get a firsthand look at the devastation the Russian invasion has caused on Ukraine. Thousands of Ukrainian troops and civilians have been killed, millions of refugees have fled the war, and Ukraine has suffered tens of billions of dollars of infrastructure damage.
Biden promised long-term support for Ukraine, saying that “freedom is priceless. It’s worth fighting for for as long as it takes.”
“And that’s how long we’re going to be with you, Mr. President, for as long as it takes,” Biden promised. Zelenskyy, speaking in English, responded, “We’ll do it.”
READ ALSO: Road To Polls Littered With Currency Bedlam