Biden safely lands back in US after historic visit to war-torn Ukraine
President Joe Biden has returned to the White House after a historic three day visit to Europe, which included stops in Poland and war-torn Ukraine. Shortly after 8.30pm on Wednesday, Air Force One landed at Joint Base Andrews, where Biden disembarked without incident, but appeared to walk stiffly across the tarmac to Marine One. It came hours after Biden, 80, stumbled up the stairs of the presidential jet as he departed Warsaw. But upon arriving at the White House South Lawn, the president appeared more limber, jogging down the steps of Marine One. He stepped quickly across the lawn to the White House, and did not answer shouted questions from reporters about his whirlwind trip.
Biden surprised the world Monday by showing up in the capital of Ukraine, after a secret flight from Joint Base Andrews, through Germany, to Poland, and then a sleepless, 10-hour journey across the border to Ukraine by train – twice. He then spent two days in Warsaw meeting with NATO leaders. The President however faced a wrath of anger after visiting Ukraine over East Palestine, Ohio — the site of a toxic train derailment site.
Biden also memorably fell up the stairs of Air Force One just two months into his administration in March 2021 (pictured). In June, he also fell off his bike while spending a weekend away in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Additionally, a female White House staffer fell down the stairs of Air Force One as Biden arrived in Warsaw late Monday, after his travels to Kyiv.
One of his biggest vulnerabilities going into the 2024 presidential campaign cycle — should he run — will be his age, with Republican candidate Nikki Haley already calling for politicians older than 75 to subject to ‘competency tests.’ Biden didn’t have a punishing physical schedule for the European trip.
Originally, the president was expected to leave Monday night for an afternoon meeting Tuesday with Polish President Andrzej Duda and then a Wednesday afternoon meeting with the expanded group of Bucharest Nine leaders. Instead, he left a little after 4 a.m. Sunday for a secret trip to Kyiv, so he could stand shoulder-to-shoulder alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky ahead of Friday’s one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion — February 24. Pictured: Upon arriving at the White House South Lawn, the president appeared more limber, jogging down the steps of Marine One.
To safely get in and out of Ukraine’s capital city, Biden had to voyage by train 10 hours each way and didn’t make it into Warsaw until a little after 11 p.m. Monday night. Pictured: President Joe Biden concluded his *trip* to Ukraine and Poland Wednesday by falling up the stairs of Air Force One as he was headed back to the United States.
On Tuesday, the U.S. president spoke at the Warsaw Royal Castle Gardens (pictured) to a crowd of 30,000 — according to the Warsaw mayor’s office — where he proclaimed that ‘Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, never.’ Biden also slammed Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s move to suspend participation in a key nuclear arms control treaty as a ‘big mistake.’ The event had a campaign rally feel, with attendees waving a mix of Polish, Ukrainian and American flags, and upbeat pop music blasting through the outdoor venue ahead of Biden’s arrival.
Biden used the speech to counter comments Putin had made earlier in the day, during his long-delayed state-of-the-nation address. He blasted Putin’s claim that the U.S. wanted to ‘destroy Russia’ and said that the war in Ukraine was entirely the Russian president’s doing. The result was a face-off that could have from come from the height of the Cold War as East and West delivered dueling speeches. Putin accused Washington of sparking the war, before Biden hit back.
‘The United States and the nations of Europe do not seek to control or destroy Russia,’ Biden said to cheers. ‘The West was not plotting to attack Russia, as Putin said today, and millions of Russian citizens only want to live in peace with their neighbors are not the enemy. This war was never a necessity. It’s a tragedy.’
Biden accused the Russian leader of war crimes on a colossal scale. But after the dark days of a year ago, at times it sounded like a victory rally. ‘One year ago, the world was bracing for the fall of Kyiv,’ Biden told the packed crowd. ‘Well, I just came from a visit to Kyiv, and I can report Kyiv stands strong. Kyiv stands proud, it stands tall and, most important, it stands free.’ The speech offered a chance to riff on one of Biden’s key ideological themes: That authoritarian regimes are fragile in the face of democracy. Pictured: Biden embraces children holding flags after finishing his speech.
‘Autocrats only understand one word no, no, no,’ he said. ‘No, you will not take my country. No, you will not take my freedom. No, you will not take my future. And I’ll repeat tonight what I said last year, the same place. A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never be able to ease the people’s love of liberty. Brutality will never grind down the will of the free. And Ukraine … Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, never.’ Pictured: A crowd waits for President Joe Biden to arrive to deliver his speech, Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023, at the Royal Castle Gardens in Warsaw.
His speech reflected just how much the region has changed since Biden visited a little under a year ago. Then Kyiv appeared to be on the brink of disaster, as Russian troops advance in a lightning assault. Now the city is safe enough for a sitting American president to visit, allowing a very visual show of support. Yet on Tuesday evening he still warned that there were ‘hard and very bitter days, victories and tragedies’ ahead but promised that the U.S. would not waver in its support for Ukraine. ‘There should be no doubt our support for Ukraine will not waver, NATO will not be divided. And we will not tire,’ he said. President Putin’s craving, lust for land and power will fail.’ Pictured: A still photograph of President Joe Biden walking up the stairs of Air Force One seconds before he fell up them again.
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