Biden makes surprise visit to Ukraine nearly one year after Russia’s invasion

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AMSTERDAM — President Joe Biden made a shock and historic go to to war-torn Ukraine on Monday, a present of help and solidarity with a democratic nation battling for its survival after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded almost a 12 months in the past.

The go to, together with a gathering with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, was stored beneath tight secrecy till Biden’s arrival. White Home officers had been adamant that Warsaw, Poland, can be Biden’s solely cease. On Friday, a White Home spokesman answered with a single phrase when requested if Biden meant to cross the border into neighboring Ukraine: “No.”

The clandestine nature of the journey factors to the hazards of America’s commander-in-chief visiting Ukraine amid persevering with bombardment, with Russia firing missiles into the nation hoping to interrupt an deadlock because the conflict enters its second 12 months. Air raid sirens sounded whereas Biden was on the bottom.

It’s the first time in fashionable historical past {that a} U.S. president has entered a conflict zone the place there’s not an lively American navy presence.

Biden’s look in Ukraine is a powerful assertion that the U.S. stands with Zelenskyy regardless of rising stress at house to downsize American assist.

But the dangers are big. Different presidents have visited conflict zones. Barack Obama traveled to Afghanistan in 2014 and George W. Bush visited American troops in Iraq in 2003. As was the case with Biden, each traveled beneath strict secrecy.

Now, the adversary is Russia. If Russian President Vladimir Putin’s navy have been to deliberately goal Biden, and even inadvertently hurt the president by means of an errant missile, the U.S. can be obligated to retaliate. That might doubtlessly escalate a regional conflict right into a direct battle between two nuclear-armed international locations.

Nonetheless, forward of the journey, some analysts have been hopeful that Poland wouldn’t be Biden’s solely cease. A visit to Ukraine “can be a strong demonstration of help and sign a sturdy change in coverage — a extra forward-leaning and fulsome strategy to Ukrainian help,” stated Alexander Vindman, former director of European affairs within the Donald Trump White Home’s Nationwide Safety Council.

Biden has invested appreciable political, navy and monetary capital within the conflict, retaining overmatched Ukraine viable towards bigger Russian forces. Along with American help, he has additionally pressed the remainder of the NATO alliance to shore up Ukraine, arguing it’s crucial for the democratic world to counter Russian aggression for 2 causes. One is to discourage Putin from widening the conflict into NATO international locations; one other to discourage China’s authoritarian authorities from launching its personal assaults on smaller nations similar to Taiwan.

The U.S. has additionally begun to sound warnings that the Chinese language are offering navy help to the Russian effort and cautioned the nation towards offering deadly assist.

China has supplied some broader assist to Russia, together with parroting Russian disinformation and selling Russia’s false pretexts for the conflict. However U.S. officers say the Chinese language are actually offering extra tangible help for Russian troops in Ukraine. The Chinese language have previously denied offering navy help.

Biden and Zelenskyy met in December in Washington, D.C., when the Ukrainian president traveled to the U.S. capital and delivered an deal with to a joint session of Congress. Zelenskyy has solely sparingly left his nation because the invasion.

With combating choosing up, Zelenskyy has been urgent Washington for extra superior fighter jets. To this point, Biden has refused out of concern that the F-16 planes may escalate the battle.

In January, Biden introduced the U.S. would send 31 Abrams tanks, which he was initially reluctant to do. The U.S. will even present coaching for the tanks.

Biden can be dealing with cross-pressures from conservative Republicans, who consider the U.S. has already given sufficient cash and arms to Ukraine and will now press for a peace deal.

The quantity of American navy help to Ukraine is nearing $30 billion. Polling reveals that American help for Ukraine stays robust, although much less in order time passes. In Could 2022 — three months into the conflict — 60% of People favored supplying weapons to Ukraine. As of January, that quantity had slipped to 48%, based on an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll launched final week. The proportion of adults who favored sending taxpayer cash on to Ukraine dropped seven share factors in that time-frame — from 44% to 37%.

The conflict has stretched on longer than most within the West anticipated, with preliminary estimates that Ukraine would have the ability to dangle on just for a number of weeks earlier than the Russians seized Kyiv, ousted Zelenskyy and absorbed the nation into its orbit. As a substitute, Ukraine proved to be a extra resilient opponent than anticipated.

A conflict that was anticipated to finish rapidly with Ukraine’s give up and Zelenskyy’s exile will attain its one-year anniversary on Friday.

Peter Nicholas reported from Amsterdam and Cat Corrigan and Susan Kroll reported from Kyiv.

Cat Corrigan and Susan Kroll contributed.

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