President Joe Biden visits Ukraine to show solidarity with President Zelenskyy ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the country.
President Joe Biden made an unannounced visit to Ukraine on Monday to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, in a show of solidarity that comes days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the country. Biden spent more than five hours in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, meeting with Zelenskyy at Mariinsky Palace, honoring the country’s fallen soldiers, and meeting with U.S. embassy staff in the war-torn country.
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. For 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 as he prods the U.S. and European allies to provide more advanced weaponry and to step up the pace of delivery.
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. Ukraine has also been pushing for battlefield systems that would allow its forces to strike Russian targets that have been moved back from frontline areas, out of the range of HIMARS missiles that have already been delivered. 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.
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.
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. Although a semblance of normalcy has returned to the city, regular air raid sirens and frequent missile and killer-drone attacks against military and civilian infrastructure across the country are a near-constant reminder that the war is still fiercely raging. The bloodiest fighting is, for the moment, concentrated in the country’s east, particularly around the city of Bakhmut, where Russian offensives are underway.
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,” Biden said of the Russian leader. “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.” The trip gave Biden an opportunity to get a firsthand look at the devastation the Russian invasion in Ukraine.