Rumors began to swirl toward the end of January as to whether President Joe Biden would make the decision to travel to Europe days before the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of the Ukrainian territory. For weeks there was speculation about the trip’s destination –- would it be Poland, an Eastern European nation or Ukraine itself? A packed agenda, coupled with the dangerous reality of visiting a country at war, led the White House to declare that the safest option would in fact be to not make the journey at all, while leaving open the possibility for a commemoration, discussion, or special event to show solidarity with Ukraine ahead of the war’s one-year anniversary in the coming days.
The United States is one of the main NATO member states that has looked for ways not only to establish new funds for sending arms to Ukraine, something on which it has already spent $2 billion, but also to persuade others allied countries to do the same and to send tanks, defense systems, ammunition and heavy artillery to Ukraine. Another country that has been similarly active in sending arms and training Ukrainian soldiers, although with a smaller budget, is Poland. The United Kingdom is also on this list of countries.
Every country included in these memorandums knows exactly what would happen if Russia were to win the war. On a practical level, a Russian victory would be a huge threat to Europe, whose future would be left in the hands of a Russian expansionist ideology. That is without mentioning the Russian nuclear threat.
Before these sudden movements in recent weeks with journeys and summits, as well as meetings at Ramstein Air Base, in Brussels and other cities in Europe, I had expected the American leader to be torn between carrying out a visit so close to the invaded territory and taking the initiative of such a powerful NATO member, to commemorate and condemn what happened in this part of the world. Visiting Ukraine was a risk and ultimately too dangerous for President Biden, given what could happen next with a Russia frustrated by the West’s unanimous support for Ukraine. The threat is real, even if it is unlikely that we will experience its absolute extreme.
In recent days, the spokesperson for the Pentagon, John Kirby, has announced that President Biden will be in Poland from Feb. 20-22. This comes almost a year after Biden’s last visit to the Polish territory in March 2022.
In addition to visiting Warsaw, meeting with President Andrzej Duda and showcasing Polish American cooperation, it remains clear that President Biden is traveling to show solidarity with Ukraine and to give an address at the border of Belarus, another focal point of the conflict. I have no doubt that the Ukrainian president will travel to Poland to meet with Biden; however, at this time there is not much detail about the visit.
Next week’s journey will create some breathing space, but there is no doubt that Biden will carry with him not only the topic of the war and the Nord Stream gas pipeline scandal, but also domestic concerns about unidentified objects in U.S. air space, China’s “spy balloon,” internal discontent in the United States, his own popularity and how to advance his agenda in Congress.
In the background of the visit to Poland, Vladimir Putin will be presenting his annual presidential report on Feb. 21 before the Russian Federal Assembly at the Gostiny Dvor Conference Centre in Moscow, very close to the Kremlin. Coincidence? Reports say that Biden will be able to see him from Poland.
Will there be other surprises from Warsaw or Moscow?
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