President Biden on Monday made a surprise visit to Ukraine, marking his first visit to the country since Russia invaded last year, a highly symbolic move that demonstrates Washington’s deep involvement in the war.
The visit came just days ahead of February 24, which will mark the one-year anniversary of the current conflict in Ukraine. In a statement, Biden said the purpose of his trip to the war zone was to “reaffirm our unwavering and unflagging commitment” to Ukraine.
While in Kyiv and meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, President Biden announced a new weapons package for Kyiv worth nearly $500 million. The package includes ammunition for the HIMARS rocket systems, other artillery ammunition, four Bradley Infantry Fire Support Team vehicles, Javelin anti-tank systems, and other equipment.
Absent from the package are the more advanced weapons Ukraine has been seeking, including fighter jets and the Army Tactical Missiles Systems (ATACMs), munitions with a range of up to 190 miles.
Biden claimed the US and its allies had pledged 700 tanks for Ukraine. It’s not clear if the number is accurate as Germany and its partners cannot manage to scrape together 61 Leopard 2 tanks to give Ukraine, and the US has only pledged to send 31 Abrams tanks. But Ukraine has received hundreds of Soviet-made tanks from eastern European countries, such as Poland, which pledged 240 T-70 tanks for Kyiv earlier in the conflict.
Biden’s visit came after The Washington Post reported that the administration has conveyed to Ukraine that the amount of assistance it has received might not last forever, and the head of NATO has acknowledged the alliance’s ammunition stockpiles are being depleted. But the president’s message on Monday was that the US would keep supporting the proxy war against Russia for as long as it takes.
The Biden administration is also hoping that Ukraine will regain some territory in the coming months, and part of Biden’s visit might have been to encourage Zelensky to launch a counteroffensive. Russia has been building up its forces for months after mobilizing 300,000 fresh troops and has been starting to make more territorial gains.
Demonstrating the danger of the trip, air sirens were heard in Kyiv while Biden was there, although no airstrikes were reported. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the US notified Moscow that Biden was visiting Ukraine a few hours before his arrival.
“We did notify the Russians that President Biden would be traveling to Kyiv. We did so some hours before his departure for de-confliction purposes,” Sullivan told reporters.
Kate Bedingfield, the White House communications director, told reporters that “a visit from a US President to an active warzone like this is historic and unprecedented and, as I say, required a great deal of careful planning.”
Some Republicans in Congress were critical of President Biden’s trip. “Joe Biden prioritizing a visit to Ukraine before East Palestine, Ohio is the perfect example of his administration putting America last,” House Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) said in a statement to Breitbart.