Biden’s visit to Kiev sends a powerful signal to Putin.

President Joseph Biden made a historic trip to Kyiv on Monday, just ahead of the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to show his sympathy with the Ukrainian people and offer American and western support to President Volodymyr Zelensky. Also, he promised an additional $500 million in military aid to boost Ukraine’s combat operations as the country prepared for a renewed Russian attack.

Zelensky stated that when the war began last year, his first call was to the United States. Biden, recalling the discussion, replied, “You stated that you did not know when we may speak again. On that dark night a year ago, the entire world was practically preparing for the collapse of Kiev and possibly the end of Ukraine. A year later, Kiev still remains. Ukraine still remains. Democracy endures.”

Unannounced, Biden’s five-hour visit occurred at a time when both sides were prepared for an escalated war in the spring. The war has already cost hundreds of thousands of lives, displaced millions of Ukrainians, sparked what many consider to be a proxy war between the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and Russia, triggered global food, fuel, and fertiliser crises, and triggered at least one round of Russian nuclear brinkmanship last year. Yet, Ukraine has astonished the international community with its tenacious resistance, and the United States has remained steadfast in its backing of Ukraine, a point that Biden’s visit was intended to emphasise.

“It’s foolish of me to say this, but I felt it was crucial for the President of the United States to be present on the day the attack began… Biden stated, “I believed it was crucial that there be absolutely no dispute about the United States’ support for Ukraine in the battle.” While Zelensky praised the administration, Congress, and American people for their support, he noted that this was one issue on which there was broad bipartisan agreement in the US Congress.

Biden stated that Zelensky had requested him to establish a coalition of international leaders in favour of Ukraine during their first conversation after the war, and that the United States has subsequently succeeded in doing so.

In addition, the US President asserted that Russian President Vladimir Putin had made an error in judgement. “Russia intended to erase Ukraine from the map. Putin’s conquering campaign is failing… Putin believed that Ukraine was weak and that the West was fragmented. He believed he could outlive us. I do not believe he is now thinking that.”

Biden stated that the increased aid of $500 million will cover artillery ammunition for long-range weapons such as Howitzers and HIMARS, additional anti-tank javelins, additional anti-armor systems, and air surveillance radars to protect against aircraft attacks. This is in addition to the western assistance of 700 tanks and thousands of armoured vehicles, 1,000 artillery systems, more than two million rounds of artillery ammunition, more than 50 advanced launch rocket systems, anti-ship and air defence systems, and more than two million rounds of artillery ammunition already provided to Ukraine. The United States will also unveil further penalties against Russian elites later this week.

Zelensky stated that the two leaders had also discussed “long-range weaponry and weapons that may still be given to Ukraine despite the fact that they were not previously supplied” despite the fact that new capabilities have not yet been declared.

The extraordinary visit was fraught with tension. This is the first time an American president has travelled to a war-torn country where the United States does not control critical infrastructure, Jake Sullivan, the President’s national security adviser, who accompanied Vice President Biden, told reporters over the phone shortly after the American delegation left Ukraine.

The United States has no military presence in Ukraine, unlike in Iraq and Afghanistan, the other conflict zones visited by presidents in recent decades. It does not govern Ukrainian air space. The embassy of the United States in Kiev has a small footprint. And the President travelled with a minuscule entourage.

According to Sullivan, Biden was adamant about making the trip in order to convey a “clear, unequivocal message” of continuing American support and of the solidarity of the West in standing with Ukraine against Russian aggression “for as long as it takes.”

Several White House teams and officials from the intelligence community, the Secret Service, and the Pentagon collaborated for months to develop a security and operational plan to guarantee the danger was “manageable.” Biden provided his final consent for the visit on Friday. Russia was informed of the visit in order to prevent any mishaps and reduce potential dangers. “We did inform Russia of President Biden’s trip to Kiev a few hours prior to his departure for deconfliction purposes,” Sullivan added.

Biden departed the Andrews Air Base near Washington, D.C. on Sunday at 4.15 a.m., eastern time, and landed in Kyiv on Monday at 8 a.m., local time, over 23 hours later. There are rumours that the President flew to Poland and then rode a train, but officials have not yet confirmed the forms of transportation due to security concerns.

Biden arrived at the Mariinsky Palace at 8.30 am local time, where Zelensky praised him for attending. On his seventh visit to the city, Biden told a reporter that the objective of the trip was to demonstrate that the United States is here to stay. “We will not leave.” Biden and Zelensky then met separately after introducing their respective teams and engaging in organised bilateral discussions.

The two leaders then had an outdoor walkabout at the St. Michael’s Gold-Domed Church in central Kyiv shortly after 11 a.m. As a military salute played in the backdrop, the two also laid a wreath at the Wall of Memorial for war’s fallen soldiers.

According to Sullivan, the two presidents had a “deep conversation on the combat situation,” the help already supplied by the United States, and the required capabilities. While the United States did not declare any new equipment assistance, the National Security Agency (NSA) stated that they had a “productive dialogue on the matter” in which both sides presented their perspectives.

Biden and Zelensky also discussed the political aspects of the crisis, such as an upcoming session on Ukraine at the United Nations General Assembly, Ukraine’s peace formula, and the United States’ resolve to maintain the “large and diverse international coalition” supporting Ukraine for as long as necessary. Sullivan acknowledged that difficult times lied ahead. This was not a celebration, but rather an endorsement of the Ukrainian people’s courage. Biden travelled from Ukraine to Poland, where he will deliver a significant address on Tuesday to commemorate the war’s anniversary.

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