In Warsaw, the US President responded indirectly to the speech by the Russian ruler hours earlier. The message: Freedom will triumph. From Warsaw Bernd Riegert.
The leader of the free world and the head of the Kremlin in Moscow delivered a keynote speech on the same day. Joe Biden, the American President, in Warsaw. Vladimir Putin, the Russian President who ordered the attack on Ukraine a year ago, held his in Moscow. A kind of long-distance duel. But it wasn’t about a competition like in a debating club, but about questions of war and peace, life and death. Biden’s security advisor Jake Sullivan pointed this out again.
Putin has accused Ukraine, the United States and what he sees as the “arrogant” West of starting the war in Ukraine. Russia must now defend itself. However, Joe Biden did not ignore this absurd claim but addressed the Russian people directly in his speech. “The West is not planning an attack on Russia,” Biden said. “Putin chose this war. He can end it with one word.” Ukraine cannot stop fighting because then it would cease to exist, said the US President.
Criticism of Putin’s threatening gestures
Putin announced in Moscow that Russia would suspend the last major superpower treaty limiting nuclear weapons. NATO and the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, described this as irresponsible and called on Russia to reconsider this step. The security expert Stefan Meister from the Science and Politics Foundation in Berlin spoke of “saber-rattling from Moscow”. Meister told DW that he didn’t assume that Putin wanted to “escalate nuclear issues.”
“Freedom Will Win”
In front of thousands of cheering spectators in the garden of the Royal Warsaw Palace, Joe Biden said that the dispute with Russia was about the struggle between dictatorship and freedom. Freedom is the “sweetest word”, the noblest goal. “Everything we do now, we do so that our children and grandchildren can also experience it: freedom!”
Freedom is the enemy of tyrants, Biden continued. Vladimir Putin is experiencing something that he would never have dreamed of a year ago. “Today, democracies are stronger, not weaker. Autocracy is weaker, not stronger.”
Working on the text of the speech on the special train returning from Kyiv to Warsaw: Jake Sullivan, National Security Advisor (left), and President Biden
Still, under the impression of his surprise visit to Kyiv, the President paid tribute to the sacrifices that the people of Ukraine are making to stay free. “It was an honor for me to honor the heroes of Ukraine who gave their lives,” said Biden, who visited a memorial in Kyiv with President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “We stand with teachers, nurses, paramedics, and urban workers across Ukraine who are trying to keep the electricity running despite the brutal Russian bombing.”
“As Long As It Takes”
Unlike eleven months ago on his first visit to Warsaw after the beginning of the war, Joe Biden did not comment personally on Putin this time. At that time he had said, “this man cannot stay in power”. No word on regime change, but a clear statement that those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity will ultimately be held accountable.
As expected, the US President reiterated America’s “unbreakable commitment” to defending NATO and assisting Ukraine in its defense against Russia, providing funds, arms, and ammunition for as long as it is needed. However, Joe Biden did not become more specific. He didn’t name weapons systems or timescales, but said the decisions “we make over the next five years will define our lives for decades to come.”
Special partner Poland
The Polish host, President Andrzej Duda, was delighted with the American guest’s second visit in eleven months. Duda thanked the US for the “symbolic visit” and support. “America will always defend the West and its values,” Duda said as he sat across from Biden at a long conference table in the presidential palace. Joe Biden smiled and shared anecdotes from his time as a young US senator in the 1980s about his special appreciation for Poland. Even then, he said, he predicted the end of communism and the Poles’ desire for freedom, although colleagues warned him not to make a fool of himself.
There were no concrete commitments for more US soldiers to be stationed in Poland. 10,000 are already in the country, mainly as units that will stay for a few months and then be swapped out. “A visit like this is obviously a symbol of how important and relevant Poland has become in international politics, especially in relation to Ukraine,” political scientist Marek Madej from the University of Warsaw told DW. Marek Madej did not necessarily share the view of many Polish politicians, especially in the national-conservative government, that Poland is now the preferred ally of the United States in Europe. “The focus on Poland is due to the fact that all transports to Ukraine now have to go through Poland, no question of preference. It’s a matter of pure logic, geopolitical logic.”
Were it not for the war against Ukraine, the relationship between Joe Biden and Andrzej Duda might be less cordial. After all, Duda was an ardent supporter of ex-President Donald Trump, a political opponent of Joe Biden, who had promised Poland more US troops. “Joe Biden is a shrewd politician with a lot of experience. He knows how things work. The two presidents will cooperate, even if there is no particular personal chemistry between them,” political scientist Madej describes the relationship between the liberal Democrat Biden and the national conservative Duda.
How long is “as long as necessary”?
There was no hint in any of the speeches as to how the Russian war against Ukraine, which Putin still calls “special operations,” could be ended. Neither did the Russian president show any willingness to negotiate, nor did the American president move away from the idea that Ukraine, and thus the West, must win the war. Putin claimed Russia could hold out for a long time. Biden threatened more sanctions and staying power on the part of the allies.
The question for the US now is how China will deal with the conflict. The government in Beijing has announced a peace plan and wants to mediate. The US criticizes that China could soon supply the Russians with deadly weapons because the attacker ran out of resources. So how long will “as long as necessary” be? In an interview with CNN, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave the answer: “I think it would be wise to prepare for a long war.”
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