February 21, 2023
Kennedy, and then Reagan, in Berlin. Now Biden in Kyiv. Periodically, during the past sixty years, American presidents have stood up at the Eastern edge of Europe and looked to Russia to say, “We stand with our allies. Our resolve is unshakeable.”
Kennedy said, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Reagan said, “Mr. Gorbachev tear down that wall.”
And Biden, on his surprise President’s Day visit to Kyiv said, “One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands,” reports David Rothkopf in an opinion piece for The Daily Beast.
Stirringly, Rothkopf noted, just days ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s brutal offensive against Ukraine, Biden walked through the streets of Kyiv, paid his respects to those who had fallen in defense of Ukraine, and said, “Freedom is priceless. It’s worth fighting for, for as long as it takes.”
Biden also invoked the conversation he had with Ukraine President Volodomyr Zelensky last February, as Russia’s massive escalation of its nine-year-old war of unprovoked aggression against Ukraine. He recalled with Zelensky at his side, “You said you didn’t know when we’d be able to speak again. That dark night … the world was literally bracing for the fall of Kyiv … perhaps even the end of Ukraine.”
Of course, the symbolism of the American president standing alongside Zelensky, walking through the Ukrainian capital even as air raid sirens sounded, carried many other messages as well.
To those fighting for Ukraine, it was a vitally important message of solidarity that came with further commitments from Biden of military support for Ukraine.
To Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, it was Biden’s way of saying, “I am here in Kyiv and you are not. You not only did not take Kyiv in days as some predicted, but your attack was rebuffed. Your army suffered a humiliating defeat from which it has not recovered.”
“We cannot know. But what we know today is that, thanks to the resolve of Biden and the West, and the inspiring courage and resilience of the people of Ukraine … Russia’s army has been weakened, depleted and revealed to be profoundly dysfunctional,” wrote Rothkopf.
“We also cannot know what challenges the next phases of this war are likely to present. But thanks to Biden’s visit today, it is crystal clear that Ukraine will not be facing them alone and that Ukraine’s enemies and their current and potential allies should never again underestimate the resolve of the United States and NATO to do what they have been doing for decades, since Kennedy’s trip and Reagan’s, to defend with whatever it takes our values, our democracies and the security provided by an international order based on the rule of law.”
Research contact: @thedailybeast