(WARSAW, Poland) — This week in Poland, President Joe Biden is set to underscore the importance of NATO’s support for Ukraine after making a surprise visit to Kyiv on Monday on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion.
Biden’s chief message while in Warsaw, Poland, until Wednesday is expected to center around continued backing from western allies for Ukraine, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters last week.
The president is scheduled to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda on Tuesday to discuss cooperation between Washington and Warsaw to aid Kyiv, particularly over Poland’s role as a key staging ground for military and financial aid flowing to Ukraine.
“The two leaders will discuss Poland’s important logistical role as well in helping the U.S. facilitate deliveries of military and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine from not only the United States but from our allies and partners,” Kirby said last week. “The president will also have a chance to thank Poland for how they have hosted now an increased number of U.S. forces, including those that are permanently stationed and those who were deployed to Europe as part of our force posture adjustments.”
“As we approach the one-year mark since this invasion, we can proudly say that our support for Ukraine remains unwavering and our alliances and our international coalition in support of Ukraine remain stronger than ever,” Kirby said.
Biden echoed that while in Kyiv, a previously unannounced visit which he said showed “unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Also on Tuesday, Biden will deliver public remarks in Warsaw detailing U.S.-led efforts to arm Ukraine with assistance needed to respond to Russia’s invasion. The White House says his speech will address “how the United States has rallied the world to support the people of Ukraine as they defend their freedom and democracy, and how we will continue to stand with the people of Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
One day later, the president will meet with heads of state of the so-called Bucharest Nine, who comprise NATO’s eastern bloc.
“These are largely the group of eastern flank NATO allies who are basically and, quite frankly, literally on the frontlines of our collective defense right now,” Kirby said.
Those leaders have also been among the most vocal about the need to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s military, with some warning that Russian President Vladimir Putin could have his eyes set on invading other eastern European countries — including NATO members — at the same time that Russian officials have signaled they view the West’s support as its own provocation.
Biden first landed in Poland late Sunday, according to reporters traveling with him, then set off for to Ukraine for his roughly five-hour visit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, his first since Russia’s invasion last year.
“One year later, Kyiv stands and Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” Biden said alongside Zelenskyy on Monday. “The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”
“This is the largest land war in Europe in three quarters of a century, and you’re succeeding against all and every expectation except your own,” he added. “We have every confidence that you’re going to continue to prevail.”
Yet despite Biden’s successful trip to Kyiv, debate continues to rage in Washington and across the Atlantic over what kind of aid to provide Ukraine ahead of what is anticipated to be a major offensive from Russia.
House Republicans, who were elected to the majority in November, have pledged to push for accountability for U.S. assistance to Ukraine, describing it as an end to a “blank check” mentality. Some in the GOP conference have pushed for a harder line to pull back on sending money and supplies, though leaders in both parties have rejected that.
In total, the United States has committed $30 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including more than $29.3 billion since the beginning of Russia’s invasion. That has included sending increasingly complex munitions, from Stinger anti-aircraft systems and Javelin anti-armor systems to most recently Howitzers, and soon, Abrams tanks.
Now, though, Zelenskyy is pushing for the U.S. to allow F-16 fighter jets and longer range missiles to be sent to Ukraine, something that Biden has previously seemed reluctant to commit to.
Zelenskyy has said the jets could be instrumental in the fight and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said earlier this month that “nothing is off the table” and said the U.K. will begin to train Ukrainian pilots on NATO-standard aircraft.
In Washington, the Biden administration has also emphasized the importance of good training over any particular system.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken declined to answer directly, in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday, about possibly sending F-16s.
“We’re in very close collaboration and coordination with the Ukrainians precisely on this question of what do they need at any given time. But what’s very important is this: What we should not do, any of us, is to focus or get fixated on any particular weapons system because the weapon system itself, as important as it is, is not sufficient. You have to make sure that Ukrainians are trained on the systems that are being provided,” he said.
Biden returns to the White House from Poland on Wednesday.
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