War in Ukraine: Poland receives Biden expecting a tough message towards Putin | International
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For a US president to travel to Poland is not extraordinary. George W. Bush and Barack Obama, for example, did so three times during their terms. But the visit that Joe Biden began this Friday, landing at noon in the city of Rzeszów, near the border with Ukraine, is experienced in the country as particularly historic due to the moment in which it occurs. The White House National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, has already told the media on the presidential plane that the speech that Biden will give on Saturday at the Royal Palace in Warsaw will be “important”. And the Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita He already compares it to the one pronounced by John Fitzgerald Kennedy in West Berlin in 1963 – two years after the hasty construction of the Berlin Wall – and in which he pronounced the emblematic phrase “Ich bin ein Berliner” (I am from Berlin).
Poland, the main route of entry for Ukrainian refugees (2.2 million of the 3.7 million) and a key player in NATO’s deployment on its eastern border, is the only country that Biden has chosen to visit on this European tour. In its previous stage, Brussels, went for a triple summit of NATO, the G-7 and the EU, which shows how the month of war in neighboring Ukraine has relocated Warsaw on the global board after years of controversy around to the rule of law since the party in power, the ultra-conservative Law and Justice (PiS), did not hide its sympathy with Donald Trump.
Biden has not been received in Rzeszów by the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, as planned, because the plane that was transporting him has been forced to make an emergency landing due to a technical problem. He has been welcomed in his place by Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak. Duda prepares to join them on another plane.
The president of the United States has been informed about the reception of the refugees and has visited (and shared pizza) with members of the 82nd Airborne Military Division of the Armed Forces of his country. They have been moved there to reinforce the eastern flank, to which NATO approved Thursday to send four new multinational battalions. In Poland there are around 10,000 of the 100,000 soldiers that Washington maintains deployed in Europe due to the crisis. Rzeszów has become in recent weeks a logistics center for both refugees and military and humanitarian material.
Biden plans to arrive in Warsaw at 6:40 p.m., through whose streets police cars are seen passing in groups from time to time. The police have asked the population to avoid approaching the center by car.
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On Saturday, also in the capital, he will meet with Duda, visit a refugee center and – before returning to Washington – give the aforementioned speech. “He will talk about what is at stake right now, the urgency of the challenge that lies ahead […] and why it is important for the free world to stand united in the face of Russian aggression,” Sullivan said. In another symbolic act, President Duda has previously received Svetlana Tijanóvskaya, the main leader of the Belarusian opposition, a refugee in Lithuania since just after the 2020 fraudulent elections in her country.
Poland will take advantage of the visit to ask for a tougher hand with Moscow. Last Wednesday, he announced the expulsion of 45 Russian diplomats (half of the Embassy) on suspicion of espionage and flagged those in favor of stopping buying hydrocarbons from Russia. Biden promised this Thursday in Brussels to increase his shipments to the EU of liquefied natural gas by 68%, to accelerate the closure of the Russian tap, although the total barely covers 10% of natural gas imports from Russia.
In addition, the Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, and his Deputy Prime Minister and PiS leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, were two of the four leaders of EU countries who traveled by train to kyiv to convey a message of solidarity to the Ukrainian president. , Volodímir Zelenski, in an initiative from which Brussels distanced itself. On that trip, Kaczynski floated setting up a NATO peacekeeping force in Ukraine, an idea Moscow considers “very dangerous.”
The turning point feel is reminiscent of another trip to Poland by a US president, symbolic if less iconic than Kennedy’s to West Berlin. It was the one that George Bush made to Warsaw and Gdansk in July 1989, a month after the first free elections after decades of communist dictatorship in the Soviet orbit.
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