Biden Marks One Year of War in Ukraine, Says the World Is at an ‘Inflection Point’
President Joe Biden, during a speech in Warsaw on Tuesday, painted the Ukraine War as a fight for freedom and democracy, saying the world was “at an inflection point” where the stakes are “eternal.”
“The decisions we make over the next five years or so are going to determine and shape our lives for decades to come. That’s true for Americans. It’s true for the people of the world,” he said, adding:
And while decisions are ours to make now, the principles and the stakes are eternal. A choice between chaos and stability. Between building and destroying. Between hope and fear. Between democracy that lifts up the human spirit and the brutal hand of the dictator who crushes it. Between nothing less than limitation and possibilities, the kind of possibilities that come when people who live not in captivity but in freedom. Freedom.
He also called it the “responsibility” of democracies of the world to improve lives everywhere.
“We need to take the strength and capacity of this coalition and apply it to lifting up the lives of people everywhere, improving health, growing prosperity, preserving the planet, building peace and security, treating everyone with dignity and respect,” he said.
“That’s our responsibility. The democracies of the world have to deliver it for our people,” he added.
Biden’s speech was well-received in a country that overwhelmingly supports Ukraine in its fight against Russia. Poland gained full-independence from the Soviet bloc in 1989, after decades of communist rule and an organized resistance movement known as the Solidarity movement, led by Lech Wałęsa
During his speech, Biden tapped into that Polish anti-Soviet sentiment, even alluding to the Solidarity movement:
Because in the moments of great upheaval and uncertainty, knowing what you stand for is most important, and knowing who stands with you makes all the difference. The people of Poland know that. You know that. In fact, you know it better than anyone here in Poland. Because that’s what solidarity means.
Biden also spoke to the people of Russia, telling them that the U.S. and Europe “do not seek to control or destroy Russia,” and that Russian citizens who want to live in peace “are not the enemy.”
However, he then said the U.S. and its partners would soon announce more sanctions against Russia, and announced the U.S. would host every single member of NATO — an alliance formed to counter Russia — for a summit next year.
Biden spoke at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, which was decorated in American, Polish, and Ukrainian flags. American rock music blasted from speakers before the speech, and a podium was set up at the end of a runway lit up in yellow-and-blue — Ukraine’s national colors.
The event had a campaign feel to it, although it marked a sober occasion. American, Polish, and Ukrainian flags were distributed to attendees before the speech.
The territory was friendly — Poles have a reputation for supporting America no matter who the president is, and in general expressed excitement about Biden’s visit.
Poland’s top government figures from across the political spectrum attended the speech, including Lech Wałęsa, Poland’s first democratically-elected president.
Biden thanked the Poles for their support for Ukraine, telling the crowd:
To all of you here tonight: Take a moment. And I’m serious when I say this: Turn around and look at one another. Look at what you’ve done so far. Poland is hosting more than 1.5 million refugees from this war. God bless you. Poland’s generosity, your willingness to open your hearts and your homes, is extraordinary.
“Thank you, Poland. Thank you, thank you, thank you for what you’re doing. God bless you all,” he added.
Biden then painted a rosy, albeit somewhat misleading, picture of American support for Ukraine:
All across my country, in big cities and small towns, Ukrainian flags fly from American homes, Over the past year, Democrats and Republicans in our United States Congress have come together to stand for freedom. That’s who Americans are, and that’s what Americans do.
In reality, American support for the war is divided.
A recent NBC News poll in late January showed there is a near-even split in America on whether Congress should continue giving more aid to Ukraine. Another recent poll, by Pew Research, showed those who say the United States is providing too much aid to Ukraine has increased 19 percent from a year ago.
So far, the U.S. has provided $113 billion for Ukraine since the war began last February.
There is no end to the war in sight, with both Russia and Ukraine gearing up for a spring offensive and the Biden administration continuing to pledge military support for Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in remarks alongside Biden on Monday that victory would mean “liberating the whole of Ukraine’s territory from Russia’s occupation.”
However, Biden’s top military adviser, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, has poured cold water on the idea, saying last month it would be “very, very difficult” to eject Russian forces from all of Ukraine by the end of 2023.
“Doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but it’d be very, very difficult,” Milley said on January 20.