President Biden marked the first anniversary of the war in Ukraine on Tuesday with an impassioned speech while in Poland in which he vowed to defend democracy against Russia’s invasion for as long as it takes.
A day after his daring wartime visit to Kyiv, Biden told a cheering crowd that the West would “have Ukraine’s back” as the war enters its second year.
“Democracies of the world will stand guard over freedom today, tomorrow and forever,” he said in the speech at the landmark Royal Castle in Warsaw, where he spoke shortly after Russia launched the invasion last year.
Biden spoke of his pride at pulling off the unannounced trip to Kyiv, where he met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and walked the streets of the capital in defiance of Russia’s invading forces.
“Kyiv stands strong,” Biden declared. “Kyiv stands proud. It stands tall. And most of all, it stands free.”
Before his speech, Biden met with Polish President Andrzej Duda as he began a series of consultations with allies to prepare for an even more complicated stage of Russia’s invasion.
Russia is expected to launch a new offensive soon in eastern Ukraine, and European allies are plotting to push back in the spring.
Biden called the fight in Ukraine an essential battle for democracy in Europe.
“Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia,” he declared.
The emboldened president said the NATO alliance is “stronger than it’s ever been” despite Russian strongman Vladimir Putin’s hopes that it would split over the war in Ukraine.
The war spurred once-neutral Sweden and Finland to apply for admission to NATO, a major geopolitical blow to Putin.
Putin marked the anniversary of the war’s start with a pugnacious speech in which he announced that Moscow would suspend its participation in the last remaining nuclear arms control pact with the United States.
The so-called New START Treaty caps the number of long-range nuclear warheads and limits the use of missiles that can carry atomic weapons.
Biden railed against Putin throughout his speech, but did not mention the START suspension, perhaps in hopes that diplomacy can get Russia to resume participation soon.
Duda praised the American president’s unannounced visit to Kyiv as “spectacular,” saying it “boosted morale of Ukraine’s defenders.”
He said the visit was “a sign that the free world, and its biggest leader, the president of the United States, stands by them.
Biden plans to meet again with Duda on Wednesday, along with other leaders of the Bucharest Nine, a group of the easternmost members of NATO military alliance.
Those nations feel the biggest potential threat from Moscow, especially if the Kremlin were to succeed in gobbling up a big chunk of Ukraine by force.
The war in Ukraine has already metastasized into the bloodiest and most widespread conflict in Europe since World War II.
It has killed tens of thousands on both sides, devastated Ukraine’s infrastructure and economy and badly damaged the world economy and trade.
Biden is looking to use his whirlwind trip to Europe as a moment of affirmation for Ukraine and allies.
But the White House openly admits that there is no clear endgame to the war in sight.
Biden and Zelenskyy discussed capabilities that Ukraine needs “to be able to succeed on the battlefield” in the months ahead, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.
Zelenskyy has been pushing the U.S. and European allies to provide fighter jets and long-range missile systems known as ATACMS — which Biden has declined to provide so far.
The anniversary is a critical moment for Biden to try to bolster European unity and reiterate that Putin’s invasion was a frontal attack on the post-World War II international order. The White House hopes the president’s visit to Kyiv and Warsaw will help bolster American and global resolve.
In the U.S., a recent poll revealed that support for providing Ukraine with weapons and direct economic assistance is softening a bit.
Some far-right-wing supporters of former President Donald Trump oppose helping Ukraine, raising the possibility that the war could become a divisive issue in the coming GOP presidential fight.
Eleven House Republicans introduced what they called the “Ukraine fatigue” resolution, urging Biden to end military and financial aid to Ukraine. Several of them have trashed Zelenskyy as corrupt, while Trump hailed Putin as a “genius” when he launched the ill-fated invasion.
Biden dismissed the notion of waning American support for Kyiv.
“For all the disagreement we have in our Congress on some issues, there is significant agreement on support for Ukraine,” Biden said, praising most Republicans as well as his Democratic allies for their support.