President Biden In Poland
Struggle between democracy and autocracy continues
By Robert Strybel
WARSAW–Joe Biden, the 14th US president to pay an official visit to Poland, used the occasion to deliver a major address to the people of Poland and the world. He began by citing the well-known appeal of St John Paul II “Be not afraid,” linking it to what he called the ongoing, worldwide “struggle between democracy and autocracy.”
Biden expressed his gratitude for the generosity of Polsih people who have gone overboard to show their hospitality to more than 2.2 million refugees fleeing Putin’s bombs and missiles. He also urged other countries to share the huge burden of that influx. The American President assured Ukraine of more financial and military aid and said the US would welcome 100,000 war refugees. But he did not allude to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s plea for 1% of NATO’s tanks and warplanes to help his outmanned and under-equipped country fight off the invaders.
The American President stressed the importance of NATO’s unity and said its Article 5 is “our sacred obligation.” (That article states that an attack on one member nation will trigger the retaliation of the whole alliance.) Biden, who had called Russian dictator Putin a “butcher” and “brute,” also said: “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power,” after launching his brutal invasion of Ukraine. He told the Russian people that their dictator had set their country back to the 19th century.
The crowd listening to the speech waved Polish, Ukrainian and American flags, applauded its hard-hitting moments and gave Biden an extended ovation at the end. But Putin also sent his “greetings.” Moments before Biden spoke, the Ukrainian city of Lviv, just 40 miles from the Polish border, was struck by Russian missiles which blew up a fuel depot and destroyed a military facility.
Following a two-day summit devoted to the Ukrainian crisis with with world leaders in Brussels, Belgium, Biden traveled first not to Warsaw but to the southeastern city of Rzeszów to meet with the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division troops stationed there. In a relaxed atmosphere, the Commander-in-Chief chatted and ate pizza with our soldiers in uniform. Addressing them, he said: “You are the finest fighting force in the history of the world” and emphasized that they were playing a key role in the “struggle between democracy and autocracy. “What you’re doing is consequential,” he added. Biden also met with representatives of charity organizations providing aid to Ukrainian war refugees.
In Warsaw, the President held talks with his Polish counterpart Andrzej Duda and conferred with a Ukrainian government delegation. He later visited refugees and aid workers at Warsaw’s National Stadium. Now a refugee-registration center, it had been an emergency Covid-19 hospital at the height of the pandemic.
“The presence of the American leader in our country in these trying times is a very important sign underlining the strategic nature of Polish-American relations.” Duda said in a televised address. Apart from Brussels, the headquarters of NATO and the European Union, Poland was the only other stop on the President’s latest official trip. For a man his age, Biden held up fairly well during his event-filled, nearly week-long European junket.