Briefly: US President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Ukraine’s capital Kyiv on Monday (20 February) where he met President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top Ukrainian officials. He spent some five hours in the capital before returning to Poland via a 10-hour train ride.
Biden’s visit was more symbolic than substantive, coming just days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion on 24 February. While his visit wasn’t the first by a Western leader (e.g., France, Germany, Canada, Australia and the UK all visited last year), it’s the most significant: the US has committed more aid to Ukraine than any other country.
But Biden’s onward itinerary may be just as important as the brief Kyiv visit itself: he’ll meet Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw today, as well as leaders from other Eastern European allies. And he’ll deliver a highly-anticipated speech on NATO unity.
Intrigue’s take: An historic visit like this sends a clear message to several audiences at once: US support for Ukraine won’t waver. And that message means different things in different capitals:
- in Kyiv, it means keep fighting
- in Moscow, it means find yourself an exit
- in Beijing, it means don’t get involved
- in Western capitals, it means stick together
- and in Washington, it means stay the course.
Also worth noting:
- Biden agreed to release an additional $500M of lethal aid, but stopped short of promising any new weapons systems.
- The visit surprised almost everyone: Russia got a heads-up from Washington just a few hours beforehand.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin will also deliver a major speech today, a year after unilaterally recognising the independence of two breakaway Ukrainian regions.