As Ukraine prepares for the first anniversary of the war with Russia, President Joe Biden of the United States, on Monday, paid a surprise visit to Kyiv to show his country’s solidarity with President Zelensky and Ukrainians in general. According to reports, plans for the visit have been underway for months, but the President approved the trip on Friday and arrived on Monday amidst tight security. It was the first time the 80-year-old leader visited Ukraine since the war started.
He recalled how President Zelensky called him on the phone at the start of the war and how everyone thought Kyiv would fall into the hands of the Russians.
“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,” Joe Biden said in Kyiv, with President Zelensky on his side. “One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you and the world stands with you.”
The US president added that Kyiv had captured part of his heart. Hence the new promises to provide more assistance to Ukraine.
What did Biden say?
Like previous meetings between the two leaders in recent times, Russia was also the topic for discussion. President Biden said the purpose of his visit was to demonstrate the unwavering support of the United States to Ukraine and its people.
“I am in Kyiv today to meet with President Zelenskyy and reaffirm our unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity,” Biden said, according to a statement released by the White House.
“When Putin launched his invasion nearly one year ago, he thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided. He thought he could outlast us. But he was dead wrong,” Biden continued. “Today, in Kyiv, I am meeting with President Zelenskyy and his team for an extended discussion on our support for Ukraine.”
The American leader, who has been vocal about providing more support for Ukraine, said he would announce the delivery of ammunition, including anti-armour systems, air surveillance radars, and artillery ammunition, in the coming days. He added that further sanctions would be imposed on Russian oligarchs and companies trying to invade the punishments on Russia because of the war.
What Zelenskyy said
Since the war started in February last year, the relationship between the two leaders has continued to grow closer. Reports suggested that the Ukrainian government had since issued several invitations to the United State’s president to visit the country. Joe Biden honoured that invitation on Monday, and one extremely grateful man was President Zelenskyy. He described the visit as the most important in the history of the two countries, saying the result would be translated into a victory for Ukraine.
“This conversation brings us closer to victory. The results of this visit will surely be seen, and will surely have repercussions on the battlefield in liberating our territories,” Zelenskyy said, with Biden by his side.
“Ukrainians remember the focus, attention, the attitude that President Biden and the US have given to Ukraine,” Zelensky added. “I thank you for this level of US-Ukraine cooperation.”
In his nightly address, president Zelensky further hailed Biden’s visit, describing it as an important day for Ukraine.
“Today was a symbolic day. The 362nd day of a full-scale war, and we, in our free capital of our free country, are hosting a visit from our powerful ally, the President of the United States of America, and talking to him about the future of Ukraine, our relations, the whole of Europe and global democracy,” Zelensky said. “This is an indicator of how resilient Ukraine is. And how important Ukraine is to the world.”
The Ukrainian leader thanked the United States President and Congress for approving the delivery of the Abrams tanks to the country and for their continuous support as the war enters its second year.
“Now we are convinced that there is nothing that can undermine our democracy. Not a single aspect of Ukrainian life is and will ever be fragile. Our strength is a powerful contribution to the strength of all freedom-loving nations in the world,” Zelenskyy added.
Like Oliver in the popular British novel, “Oliver Twist,” President Zelensky will always ask for more. The Ukrainian leader used the opportunity to ask for more supplies from the United States and other allies as the war could enter a critical phase in the coming months.
He puts other countries first and America last, Republicans blast Biden for visit
While Biden’s visit is seen as heroic in some parts, some Americans, especially members of the Republican party, have criticised their president for prioritising Ukrainians over Americans.
Congressman Andy Ogles, a first-term Representative, said: “America-last Biden visited UKRAINE before visiting the people living through an environmental crisis in East Palestine, Ohio.” His claim was seconded by another Republican Congressman, Ben Cline, who criticised the president for not visiting the people in East Palestine after a train derailment caused a dangerous chemical to spill.
“Joe Biden visited Ukraine today before visiting the good people of East Palestine, Ohio,” Ben Cline wrote on Twitter. “The Biden administration continues to put America last.”
Other Republicans, especially congressmen, condemned Biden’s visit to Ukraine and accused him of paying for the war with US taxpayers’ money. Rep Greg Murphy went further to accuse the president of creating the war in Ukraine.
“So it takes two years for Joe Biden to visit the war zone he created at our southern border, but then he goes to see another war zone he created in Ukraine,” Rep Greg Murphy said in a tweet on Monday.
To others like Taylor Green, the president was working hard to secure another country when his own country is insecure.
“This is incredibly insulting. Today on our President’s Day, Joe Biden, the President of the United States chose Ukraine over America, while forcing the American people to pay for Ukraine’s government and war,” Rep Marjorie Taylor Green wrote on Twitter. “I can not express how much Americans hate Joe Biden.
Rep Scott Perry tweeted: “Breathtaking that President Biden can show up in Ukraine to ensure their border is secure, but can’t do the same for America.”
During his visit to Ukraine, President Biden admitted that the US Congress was divided on several issues but was united in providing support for Ukraine. However, some members of the Republican party have criticised the US president for giving blank checks to Ukraine when there are several issues to care for in the United States. Hence he is said to be putting “America last,” which is contrary to Donald Trump’s slogan of “America first.”
Unlike the Republicans in the House, Democrats have defended and applauded Biden’s visit to Ukraine.
Russia is not so concerned with Biden’s visit
So far, the Kremlin has not commented on Biden’s visit to Kyiv. The highest Russian official to comment on the visit is Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president and the current deputy head of Russia’s Security Council.
“Biden, having received security guarantees in advance, finally went to Kyiv. And of course, there were mutual incantations about the victory that would come with new weapons and courageous people,” Medvedev wrote on Telegram.
He accused NATO countries of profiting from the war and also stealing and selling weapons to terrorists around the world.
However, unlike Medvedev, who downplayed Biden’s visit, advocates of the war have criticised the Kremlin for being too soft with Ukraine, allowing Biden to comfortably visit Kyiv and go scot-free.
“Wouldn’t be surprised if the grandfather (he is not good for anything but simple provocations anyway) is brought to Bakhmut as well… AND NOTHING WILL HAPPEN TO HIM,” Igor Girkin, a Russian army veteran said.
“Biden in [Kyiv]. Demonstrative humiliation of Russia,” Russian journalist and war blogger Sergey Mardan wrote on his Telegram channel. There were suggestions that Biden only agreed to visit Kyiv after safety guarantee from Moscow.
After departing Kyiv, president Biden is currently in Poland to have talks with its leader on how to further assist Ukraine.