Ukraine war: Biden in Poland after a short visit to Kiev - long-distance duel with Putin

After his sensational trip to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, US President Joe Biden traveled on to neighboring Poland.

Ukraine war: Biden in Poland after a short visit to Kiev - long-distance duel with Putin

After his sensational trip to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, US President Joe Biden traveled on to neighboring Poland. Biden wants to meet President Andrzej Duda in the Polish capital Warsaw today and give a speech at the Warsaw Royal Castle on the first anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine.

Biden's speech is scheduled for early evening - just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin's big State of the Union speech in Moscow.

First visit to Ukraine since the beginning of the war

On Monday, Biden traveled to Kiev under the strictest security precautions. There he met President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and together with him, accompanied by air raids, visited several symbolic places in the city. Biden used the dramatic short visit primarily to promise Ukraine continued US support and to send a signal of unity towards Putin. Because of the major security risks, the White House kept the trip a secret until the end. It was Biden's first visit to Ukraine since the war began on February 24, 2022.

According to the White House, the US government had informed the Russian side about the visit a few hours beforehand. Biden's National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, stressed on Tuesday that the US side had informed Moscow when and how long Biden would be in Kiev and how he would travel there. Russia took note of this notice but did not otherwise respond.

Biden had traveled to Kiev in a cloak-and-dagger operation under the strictest secrecy and with an extremely small delegation. A US journalist was allowed to accompany him all the way, representing all reporters who report on the White House. Accordingly, Biden first flew to the Polish city of Rzeszow near the border with Ukraine in a smaller government aircraft. From there, Biden was taken to the train station in the city of Przemysl, around 90 kilometers away, and finally took a ten-hour train ride to Kiev.

Second visit to Poland within a year

After returning to Poland, Biden traveled on to Warsaw on Tuesday night. Biden last visited Poland at the end of March 2022, around a month after the outbreak of war in Ukraine. Even then, Biden gave a well-received speech in front of the historic backdrop of Warsaw's Royal Castle, in which he assured Ukraine of support and sharply attacked Kremlin chief Putin. In that speech, a statement about Putin caused a stir: "For God's sake, this man can't stay in power," Biden said at the time. The White House later made it clear that the President had not called for Putin's overthrow.

The appearance of Biden and Putin on the same day seems like a kind of long-distance duel between the two. However, the White House emphasized that the choreography was not intended. The date and time of the speech were not chosen because of Putin's appearance, but because of the approaching anniversary of the start of the war, Biden's adviser Sullivan said. "This is not a rhetorical contest with anyone else." The US President is more interested in talking about the strength of democracy a year after the start of the war.

For his speech in Warsaw, Biden once again chose a special historical location: the royal castle: the castle is considered a symbol of the city that was largely destroyed by Nazi Germany in World War II and later rebuilt.

From the point of view of the leadership in Warsaw, Biden's visit underscores the strategic importance of Poland. The EU and NATO country has a border with Ukraine that is more than 500 kilometers long. Not only did Poland take in a good 1.5 million war refugees from there, but in recent months it has repeatedly pushed ahead with initiatives to provide military support for Kiev. Poland hopes Biden will thank him for this, but also concrete commitments for further military support.

A diplomatic offensive for the anniversary

Biden wants to meet representatives of other Eastern European NATO countries in Warsaw on Wednesday - in the "Bucharest 9" format. In addition to Poland, the group also includes Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, i.e. the states along NATO's eastern flank. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg is also expected.

The trip to Ukraine and Poland is part of a whole series of US foreign policy talks around the anniversary of the start of the war. The White House said Biden was planning various phone calls with European partners in the coming days. On March 3, Biden will also receive Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Washington.