When locals in Kyiv noticed closed roads and unusual traffic jams this morning, many assumed a high-profile guest would soon arrive in the Ukrainian capital. They had no idea just how high-profile the guest would be. NBC News reported:
President Joe Biden made a surprise and historic visit to war-torn Ukraine on Monday, a show of support and solidarity with a democratic nation battling for its survival after Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded nearly a year ago. News of the visit, including a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, was kept tightly under wraps until Biden’s arrival.
“Unchecked aggression is a threat to all of us,” the American president declared during the visit. “One year later, Kyiv stands and Ukraine stands. Democracy stands, Americans stand with you and the world stands with you.”
By any fair measure, it was a bold and historic move. In recent memory, we’ve seen related surprise visits to war zones — Barack Obama in Afghanistan in 2014 and George W. Bush in Iraq in 2003 come to mind — but in those instances, the United States had significant military presences on the ground in the respective countries.
There are no U.S. troops in Ukraine — but today, there was a sitting U.S. president in the Ukrainian capital.
As a substantive matter, Biden wasn’t there to make any major policy pronouncements, but that clearly wasn’t the point: The Democrat’s willingness to make the secret trip, take on the risks, and appear alongside Zelenskyy a year after the Russian invasion began was itself the pronouncement.
It sent unmistakable signals — about the United States’ commitment, about Biden’s support for our allies, and about our resolve when it comes to protecting democracy.
In the process, Biden embraced the role of Leader of the Free World today in ways Americans don’t generally get to see. This was Biden the Statesman. This was Biden taking a step that his Ukrainian counterpart said would be “remembered eternally.”
The developments were certainly noticed in other capitals. Michal Baranowski of the German Marshall Fund East, a nonpartisan policy organization, promoted a photo of Biden and Zelenskyy via social media, alongside text that read, “In your face, Putin.”
It also helped raise spirits in the country that hosted the American president today. NBC News also reported:
Evheniy Lazarenko, 30, told NBC News he was surprised given the dangers involved, which made Biden’s presence all the more appreciated. “It gives a sense that we are not alone, we do have support, the biggest part of the world and greatest leaders are with us,” said Lazarenko, a manager at an IT company in Kyiv. He added that he was grateful to all Americans who are “following the news and supporting Ukraine.” Anna Myryasheva, a 24-year-old market researcher in Kyiv, said the visit gave her “joy and hope.”
I realize there are some Republican voices who were quick to whine about Biden’s visit to Kyiv, but those voices are better left ignored. The fact that the American president made it to the Ukrainian capital before Vladimir Putin did is worth celebrating.