‘Kyiv stands strong’: Biden declares Putin ‘was wrong,’ marking one year of Russia’s war in Ukraine
Written by B87FM on February 21, 2023
President Joe Biden said the world responded to a “test for the ages” and refused to “look the other way” as he marked the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and the Kremlin.
Biden, in a speech outside the Kubicki Arcades palace in Warsaw, said Russian President Vladimir Putin thought Ukraine would “roll over” when he invaded with tanks, but “he was wrong” because of the bravery of Ukrainians and “iron will” of nations everywhere.
“One year ago, the world was bracing for the fall of Kyiv,” Biden said. “Well, I just came from visiting Kyiv, and I can report, Kyiv stands strong. Kyiv stands proud. It stands tall. And most importantly, it stands free.”
The message of solidarity – delivered in front of U.S., Poland and Ukraine flags – came shortly after Putin said Russia will pull back from the New START nuclear treaty in response to a surprise visit Biden made Monday to Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
“A dictator intent on building an empire will never be able to ease the people’s love of liberty,” Biden said.
Key moments in Biden’s speech
- Democracies versus autocracies: Biden said the world, by helping Ukraine with military and other assistance, stood up for sovereignty and democracy.
- ‘We will not tire’: Biden said Putin “no longer doubts the strength of our coalition” but said he “still doubts our conviction” and “staying power.” He declared: “Ukraine will not waver. NATO will not be divided and we will not tire.”
- Crimes against humanity: Biden said Russian forces have committed “crimes against humanity without shame or compunction,” pointing to the targeting of civilians, the kidnapping of children, “rape as a weapon of war” and bombings of maternal hospitals, schools and orphanages. “It’s abhorrent,” Biden said, promising Russia will be held accountable.
- A message to Russians: Biden spoke directly to the people of Russia, telling them the U.S. and allies “do not seek to control or destroy Russia” and pushing back at Putin’s claim that the West is plotting to attack Russia. He said Russian citizens are not the enemy. “President Putin chose this war. Every day the war continues is his choice.”
- NATO’s Article 5 remains “rock solid”: Biden declared “rock solid” the U.S.’s participation in the mutual defense commitment of countries outlined in the alliance’s Article 5. “Every member of NATO knows it. Russia knows it as well. An attack against one is an attack against all.”
Biden meets with Polish president
Biden’s three-day trip to Poland comes as Russia has started what is expected to be a fierce spring assault in Ukraine. Although Biden announced new assistance to the war-ravaged ally, polls show support softening among the American public for providing Ukraine with taxpayer-funded weaponry and direct assistance.
Biden compared the resolve of Ukrainians to that of the Polish people during German occupation in World War II and three decades of communist rule that followed.
“Poland endured because you stood together,” Biden said. “That’s how brave leaders of the opposition and the people of Belarus continue to fight for their democracy.”
Ahead of his remarks, Biden held a bilateral meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda. Poland is a crucial ally and has welcomed 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees along with providing Ukraine $3.8 billion in aid.
“The United States needs Poland and NATO as much as Poland and NATO need the United States,” Biden said.
Duda praised Biden’s surprise trip to Kyiv, saying it’s “a sign that a free world has not forgotten them.”
“This visit is crucially important. It is a symbolic visit here to our region,” Duda said, according to a translator. “The United States of America carries constantly the responsibility for the security of Europe and the world.”
- More aid to Ukraine: During his visit to Kyiv, Biden announced roughly half a billion dollars in additional security assistance to Ukraine. The package would include more military equipment, including artillery ammunition; more Javelins, an anti-tank missile system; and howitzers, or long-range artillery weapons, Biden said.
- What’s on Biden’s agenda? Biden on Tuesday met with Duda to discuss his nation’s logistical role in getting military aid to Ukraine and collective efforts to bolster deterrence efforts among the NATO alliance. He also plans to meet Wednesday with allies on NATO’s eastern flank to reaffirm U.S. support for the security of the alliance.
- Second visit to Poland: This is Biden’s second visit to Poland in less than a year. He traveled to the country last March, just weeks after the war in Ukraine began to present a united front with U.S. allies against Russian aggression. At the time, he met with Ukrainian refugees during that trip.
The president’s visit to Kyiv and Poland this week came just days ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the former Soviet republic — which has triggered the largest conflict in Europe since World War II.
During his visit to Ukraine which Russia first invaded on Feb. 24, 2022, Biden highlighted the United States support of the country and vowed to continue to provide support for the duration of the war.
And he delivered a similar message in Poland, highlighting how the United States has rallied international support around Ukraine and punished Russia for its aggression. He framed the continuation of the war as a choice for Putin.
“It’s simple,” Biden said. “If Russia stopped invading Ukraine, it would end the war. If Ukraine stopped defending itself against Russia, it would be the end of Ukraine.”
Putin’s combative speech
Ahead of Biden’s speech Tuesday, Putin gave his own address ahead of the anniversary of the Russian invasion.
Putin announced that he was suspending Moscow’s participation in New START – a strategic nuclear arms reduction treaty between the U.S. and Russia. He attributed the action to the U.S. and NATO, but did not add any specifics.
The move signals that Russia’s war with its neighbor will continue as the United States has vowed to supply Ukraine with aid and weapons as long as conflict goes on.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan in a call with reporters declined to comment on Putin’s speech, as it was ongoing at the time. But he said Biden’s speech “is not a rhetorical contest with anyone else.”
“This is an affirmative statement of values, a vision for what the world we’re both trying to build and defend should look like,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan added that Biden’s speech would not be a rebuttal but “rather to lay to rest an argument that Russia has been making for some time” that the United States and the West has caused the war.
“The President will take that argument on quite directly and emphatically,” Sullivan said.
Want to know more? Here’s what you missed
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Contributing: Kim Hjelmgaard