U.S. President Joe Biden on Feb. 16, 2023.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
U.S. President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, Monday in a show of solidarity, nearly a year after Russia began its full-scale invasion of the country.
Biden said in a White House statement that he was meeting with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to “reaffirm our unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.”
“I will announce another delivery of critical equipment, including artillery ammunition, anti-armor systems, and air surveillance radars to help protect the Ukrainian people from aerial bombardments,” he added. “And I will share that later this week, we will announce additional sanctions against elites and companies that are trying to evade or backfill Russia’s war machine.”
The Kremlin was notified of the U.S. president’s trip a few hours before his departure for “deconfliction purposes,” White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan said Monday without going into specifics.
Zelenskyy described Biden’s visit — the first by a U.S. president in almost 15 years — as “the most important visit in the history of Ukrainian-American relations.”
“At this time, when our country is fighting for its freedom and freedom for all Europeans, for all people of the free world, it emphasizes how much we have already achieved and what historical results we can achieve together with the whole world, with Ukraine, with the United States, with the whole of Europe,” he said on Telegram, according to a NBC translation.
The U.S. head of state left the Ukrainian capital after a more than five-hour visit, according to the Associated Press. Biden said that he will continue on to Poland where he will meet his counterpart Andrzej Duda. The Polish president could press Biden on post-war “security guarantees” for Ukraine, which he on Sunday told the Financial Times would be “important” for Kyiv.
Biden’s visit to Ukraine comes after a concerted show of international support from global leaders and politicians during the Munich Security Conference over recent days. Allied forces have pledged financial support and weapons for Ukraine, but have fallen short of Zelenskyy’s pleas for the supply of jet fighters.
On Feb. 18, Biden’s second-in-command, Vice President Kamala Harris, announced that Washington had determined that Russia had committed crimes against humanity in Ukraine, upgrading the U.S. administration’s March pronouncement that Moscow had committed war crimes.
The latest round of U.S. sanctions will follow the EU’s tenth round of penalties against Russia for its war in Ukraine. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said last week that the sanctions will target exports worth 11 billion euros ($11.78 billion), dual use and advanced tech goods, as well as Russian propagandists. The latest EU package is subject to the approval of EU member countries.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Saturday expressed doubts to CNBC’s Hadley Gamble that financial repercussions will deter Putin, however.
“What we have seen is that Russia is actually willing to pay a hard price for this war,” he said.
“There are no signs that President Putin is preparing or planning for peace. He is preparing for more war, or new offensive, mobilizing more troops, setting the Russian economy on a war footing and also actually reaching out to other authoritarian regimes like North Korea and Iran to get more weapons.”