Russia-Ukraine War
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Putin’s defiance and humiliation

There is no message of greater political forcefulness or even military significance than Biden’s visit to Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) and his US counterpart Joe Biden stand before a plaque dedicated to the US president in Kyiv on Monday.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) and his US counterpart Joe Biden stand before a plaque dedicated to the US president in Kyiv on Monday.UKRAINIAN PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SER (EFE)

By surprise. To the sound of howling air raid sirens. On a momentous, highly symbolic date: the first anniversary of the Russian invasion and the ninth anniversary of the massacre of the martyrs of the Euromaidan Revolution, when hundreds of demonstrators were mowed down by the provocateurs and special policemen of the then ousted Putin-backed president Viktor Yanukovych, just as the Russian invasion of Donbas and the annexation of Crimea surreptitiously began. That’s how US President Joe Biden made his unannounced visit to Kyiv. Across the world, televisions broadcast the powerful images of Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy walking through the monumental center of the capital, past St Michael’s gold-domed cathedral, and the Maidan wall in honor of those killed during the 2014 Euromaidan Revolution, a group known as the Heavenly Hundred.

It was an unusual visit – historic, like few others. There is no message of greater political forcefulness or significance, even military, than Biden’s visit to Ukraine. Putin wants to obliterate Ukraine with war and the president of the United States, the commander-in-chief of the most powerful army in the world, travels to its capital to personally assure its president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, that he will not allow the Russian dictator to have his way or to defeat democracy and the civilized world order by destroying the country.

Joe Biden’s trip to Kyiv by train from Poland, which left him without the possibility of using the US military’s heavy and armored air assets, was not an obvious decision. It was a risky and challenging move from an 80-year-old president to a dictator 10 years younger, who lives in seclusion and isolation in the Kremlin and has only very occasionally risked penetrating the Crimea territory occupied by his army – and always with extreme caution and for short periods of time.

Biden arrived in Kyiv at a special moment, when all sides are laying their cards on the card table. On one hand, there are the military cards, which signal an extensive Russian offensive that is expected, above all, on the front line between the Donbas and Crimea territories starting perhaps on Friday, coinciding with the exact anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, military sources who are skeptical about the Russian army’s capabilities believe that the operation is already underway and is achieving very mediocre results. On the other hand, there are the diplomatic cards. After last week’s Munich Security Conference, where world powers confirmed their positions on the war, China announced its intention to draft a peace plan – a move which is building enormous expectations and fueling Washington’s fears that China may provide military supplies to Moscow.

Biden’s agreement with the positions of Zelenskiy’s government, expressed with extreme clarity in Munich in the debate between the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, constitutes the framework in which the peace proposals coming from Beijing will have to be framed. These plans will be hardly acceptable if they are limited to a fragile cease-fire that serves to resupply Russian troops or if they do not include the restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty guaranteed by all international treaties and covenants, including the United Nations Charter, to which Russia is bound. They are summed up in Biden’s words of epic and compromising resonance: “One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands.”

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