On Presidents Day our nation takes time to reflect on those public servants who have shined in positive ways while demonstrating their abilities as leaders. Schoolchildren learn about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in their classrooms. This year we all are holding Jimmy Carter close in our thoughts as he deals with the rigors of aging and illness. But very early this morning we were presented with a major headline-making move that proves why President Joe Biden is the man we are most thinking about on this holiday. He became the first modern president to travel to a war zone not under the control of American forces and make a proud stand for democracy in the world.
Upon awakening, we learned Biden made a most impressive trip to underscore our national commitment—along with the Western allies—in standing forthrightly alongside the people of the sovereign nation of Ukraine. Apart from the stunning optics of a president in a war zone after taking a most incredible journey from Washington across the ocean and then by train to Kyiv, the whole world can truly rejoice in a solid display that shows democracy and personal freedom still outshine autocrats and the attempt to dismantle international law. Without a doubt, it was the most powerful and timely message that could be sent on such a day.
“Russia’s aim was to wipe Ukraine off the map. Putin’s war of conquest is failing,” President Biden said. “Putin thought Ukraine was weak and the West was divided. … I don’t think he’s thinking that right now.” The verbal slaps that Putin took today were much softer than the military blistering his troops are suffering as reports of mounting casualty rates come in from eastern Ukraine.
What intrigued me from the early hours today were the logistics of Biden getting to Kyiv. The security apparatus that surrounds a president traveling just to DeForest, Wisconsin is remarkable, so the moves made to get Biden to the place where so many hearts have turned to in the past year are beyond staggering. Perhaps the best short version of the events that unfolded was reported by CBS News.
Before dawn on Sunday, Mr. Biden and his team boarded an Air Force plane that had its shades drawn and sat in a dark hanger at Joint Base Andrews. Instead of flying on the usual 747, Mr. Biden flew on a smaller C-32. The plane’s call sign was changed from “Air Force One” to “Special Air Mission 60.”
The group traveling with Mr. Biden was also kept to a minimum and sworn to secrecy. Instead of the larger group of press that travels with the president, two journalists were allowed to document the trip — Wall Street Journal reporter Sabrina Siddiqui and Associated Press photographer Evan Vucci.
The plane stopped briefly in Germany — still with its shades down — to refuel before the aircraft’s transponder was turned off for the next flight to a Polish airbase near the Ukraine border.
From there, Mr. Biden, his aides, security apparatus and the press drove about an hour to Przemyśl Główny train station, located near the border of Poland and Ukraine. The motorcade of at least 20 vehicles did not use sirens — as the president’s motorcade usually does — to avoid drawing attention to itself.
The motorcade pulled up to a train that also had its shades mostly drawn and the occupants boarded for a 10-hour journey to Kyiv. Along the way, the train stopped a handful of times, at least once to pick up more security. All the while, U.S. surveillance flights kept watch from Polish airspace.
A couple of hours before Mr. Biden arrived in Kyiv, the U.S. gave Russia a heads up in a brief and “very straightforward way” through a “deconfliction channel,” Sloat said.
The train pulled into the Kyiv-Pasazhyrsky station after sunrise Monday. U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink awaited Mr. Biden and his staff on the platform.
“It’s good to be back in Kyiv,” Mr. Biden said after stepping off the train.
Mr. Biden was then ushered away in another motorcade to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. He spent about six hours in Kyiv before heading to the train station for the 10-hour journey back to Poland.
It was noted here as we watched coverage of the trip that it stands in stark contrast to another person once in the Oval Office who was not able to attend a WWII ceremony in Paris because it rained. Today President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky were on the streets of Kyiv even as an air-raid siren sounded. The historically relevant message, both in words and images, from Biden to the Russian autocratic thug in Moscow was supremely important as too often some in the world get mixed messages about the durability and sustainably of liberal democracy.
Russia has upped the ante and escalated hostilities in Eastern Ukraine as Putin pushes forward with a continuing desire of projecting his revisionist history on a world that has read a few books of factual accounts about the past. While he wishes to portray his war as somehow ‘patriotic’ and perhaps even will increase mobilization in a nation that has suffered tremendous loss of lives on the battlefield comes an awareness, surely, that his grip on power is weakened by this horror. What he is doing to Ukraine will not be allowed to succeed, and history will record his downfall. There will be no revised version in any library.
Since Putin does not allow free and unfettered journalism in Russia let me place here what the newspaper headline would read if able to be published in Red Square.
West Marshals Forward In Ukraine, Not To Relent When Confronted By Tyrant
Just so Putin need not ask for a translation I used an online service.
Маршалы Запада продвигаются по Украине, чтобы не смягчаться при столкновении с тираном
Either way, it means the same thing. American Resolve.