HomeUS News updateHow Biden's wartime visit to Kyiv came together

How Biden’s wartime visit to Kyiv came together

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden’s decision to make a risky wartime trip to Kiev took root after a similar secret mission two months ago — when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky came to Washington and addressed a joint meeting of Congress, discussing the matter. According to two sources familiar with .

Senior members of Biden’s national security team who helped arrange that trip late last year were delighted — and pleasantly surprised — by how powerful and positive the response to Zelensky’s trip seemed to be among the American people. Beech, the source, who declined to discuss internal planning in this story like others, said. This was Zelensky’s first trip outside Ukraine since the start of the war.

Those officials discussed potentially using the anniversary of Russia’s invasion to make a similarly bold gesture, hoping to keep the momentum going for efforts to hold together the fragile Western coalition in support of Ukraine. Started

The plan will go into effect in public, travel officials formally announced 10 days ago — that Biden will make a second trip to Ukraine’s neighbor Poland, to meet with its president and other NATO allies who are wary of any dilution in Western countries. want to suffer the most. Resolution.

Image: Joe Biden
President Joe Biden walks down the aisle of his cabin on a train after a surprise visit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev on February 20, 2023. Biden took a train ride of about 10 hours from Poland to Kiev.Ivan Vuchi / AP

But privately, among a small group of senior officials, the thinking was that this might be the moment to realize a long-standing hope among some officials for an even more powerful show of American solidarity: Biden’s visit to Ukraine.

“Probably ongoing discussions have been going on for months, and have really intensified in recent weeks,” said a senior administration official.

Officials across the government had long made it clear that it was nearly impossible to guarantee the safety of a commander-in-chief in which the US is not an active participant.

Other NATO and G7 leaders, senior members of Congress, the Secretaries of Defense and State made long, secret visits to Kiev. First Lady Jill Biden made a surprise visit to western Ukraine on Mother’s Day, spending two hours in the border town of Uzhhorod to meet with First Lady Olena Zelenska.

But the level of security required of the President of the United States had long been deemed incompatible with the task. Even until the end, discussions about security measures were “intense”, as another official put it. National security adviser Jake Sullivan later told reporters that it also included a call to Russian officials hours before Biden’s departure for “contradiction” purposes.

IMAGE: President Joe Biden, left, walks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during an unannounced visit, in Kiev, Ukraine, February 20, 2023.
President Joe Biden, left, walks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during an unannounced visit in Kiev, Ukraine, on February 20, 2023. Ivan Vuchi / AP

,[It] What was an inherently risky undertaking required a security, operational and logistics effort from US government professionals and could make it a manageable level of risk,” Sullivan said after Biden left Kiev on Monday afternoon local time. told reporters afterwards. “But, of course, there was still risk and there is still risk in such an endeavor.”

Biden spent about five hours in the capital meeting with Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials. The two leaders visited the gold-domed Monastery of St. Michael and then walked to the nearby Wall of Remembrance, which honors those killed in the war.

Sullivan and his deputy, John Finer, said officials from across the government were involved in the planning, with very close handholding between each agency involved.

During a White House press briefing on Friday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby flatly denied that Biden would visit Ukraine during his trip to Poland.

Usually, it’s Sullivan briefing reporters before Biden travels abroad, according to two sources familiar with the matter, but he didn’t do so this time, so as not to be in a position to mislead reporters.

As planning enters the final stages, aides to Vice President Kamala Harris have been told that her travel schedule around the Munich security conference needs to be trimmed to ensure she returns to US soil by Saturday night. According to other administration officials, he was not given a reason, only that it was “non-negotiable”.

On Sunday, the White House issued a public schedule for Biden to leave for Poland late Monday — just after he had already quietly left Washington.

Instead, a handful of officials gathered at the White House, along with others at locations in Europe, to track his travels every step of the way, according to two officials.

Sullivan was among a limited number of staffers traveling with Biden on Monday; Others who were supposed to travel to Poland with Biden will still travel without Biden, as scheduled Monday night.

White House officials did not immediately provide additional details of precautions being taken to reduce the security risks of the trip. But an obvious obstacle was how to provide security without compromising American air assets in the region.

Biden took a 10-hour train ride from the Polish border to Kiev. A source familiar with the matter told NBC News that while Biden could have gone to other locations inside Ukraine that would have been easier to reach, he chose Kiev to highlight what Russian President Vladimir Putin has been accused of by Ukraine’s military. Even after doing this, the capital is standing. The country will be more different than anticipated.

Image: President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Ukrainian Presidential Palace on February 20, 2023 in Kiev, Ukraine.
President Joe Biden meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at the Ukrainian Presidential Palace on February 20, 2023 in Kiev, Ukraine. Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via Getty Images

For Jill Biden’s trip to Ukraine last May, military aircraft tracked her motorcade as she made her way from a Slovakian airport to the border, but did not follow her as she crossed the Ukrainian border. The First Lady’s visit was only made public as she prepared to fly back to Slovakia hours later.

When then-Vice President Joe Biden last traveled to a war zone in an April 2016 trip to Baghdad and Erbil, his arrival was disclosed after he had safely arrived in the Green Zone, the latter’s movements was covered by the travel press pool.

Biden said Monday was his eighth trip to Ukraine, and his first words after getting off the train were, “It’s good to be back in Kiev,” according to the press pool traveling with him.

Biden’s last visit to the country came in his last days as Vice President.

This time, Biden was “very focused on making sure he made the most of his time on the ground, which he knew was going to be limited,” Sullivan said.



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