Biden visits Kyiv and Poland for the anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine
MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:
President Biden is now back in Poland after a whirlwind secret trip to Ukraine. In Warsaw, Biden will reiterate that the United States intends to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. His message is for Ukrainians, of course, but also for European allies and American voters at home. NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid is on the line now from Warsaw. And, Asma, this this secret trip to Kyiv - I'm just thinking of the amount of planning and security involved in pulling something like this off. It's mind-boggling. Do we have any more detail on how it came together?
ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: It really is. It was quite a logistical feat. Administration officials, you know, held a call with reporters shortly after Biden left Kyiv. And, you know, they told us that this was risky but that, ultimately, President Biden thought it was worth the risk. We know that he traveled via train from Poland over land, and he really had just a basic skeleton crew with him. White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said that this was unprecedented to have the president of the United States visit a war zone where the U.S. military does not have any control of the critical infrastructure. I mean, this is not, you know, Iraq or Afghanistan, where there were U.S. boots on the ground. You know, he told us, though, that Russia was given a heads up.
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JAKE SULLIVAN: We did notify the Russians that President Biden would be traveling to Kyiv. We did so some hours before his departure for deconfliction purposes.
KHALID: And, Mary Louise, he would not say how the Russians responded to that message. He did also point out, though, that Russians still control parts of Ukrainian territory. So this trip that Biden made was not, you know, a celebration in his words but an affirmation of the ongoing commitment from the U.S.
KELLY: Right. To that point, he is planning another big speech tomorrow there in Warsaw. Tell me what you're watching for.
KHALID: That's right. Biden is going to be returning to the historic Royal Castle in Warsaw. And he spoke at this very same site 11 months ago. At that time, you know, Russia had just begun the invasion of Ukraine. And he was really trying to rally the world to support Ukraine. Now here we are just days away from the one-year mark of Russia's invasion. And, you know, Biden's returning here to Poland again to make the strategic case. Of course, you know, I would point out that the conflict is at a fundamentally different point now, that European security environment has completely changed.
And I will say, you know, Biden is abroad. He's here in Poland, but he's no doubt speaking also to a U.S. audience. And I think that point is key because some recent polls have shown that support for the war is softening. A few vocal Republican lawmakers have begun publicly questioning the financial aid that the U.S. is giving Ukraine. And so experts say part of what Biden needs to do on Tuesday is make the case for why this war continues to matter outside of Ukraine.
KELLY: And beyond the big speech tomorrow, what else is on his agenda?
KHALID: He'll be meeting with Poland's president, as well. And, you know, I think coming to Poland is, in many ways, strategic. Poland is this transit for both military equipment and people. You have supplies going into Ukraine. You have refugees who've been coming from Ukraine into Poland, an estimated 1.5 million refugees. Then on Wednesday, Biden will also meet with additional leaders, leaders of the Bucharest Nine. This is a group of countries that quite literally are on the front lines of the collective NAITO defense and were closely tied with Moscow during the Cold War. The White House says they'll discuss continued efforts to cooperate and support Ukraine. You know, I will say, though, that, ultimately, what the president is trying to do here is continue to maintain unity in the face of whatever might unfold with this conflict in the coming months.
KELLY: That is NPR's Asma Khalid in Warsaw, traveling with President Biden. Thank you.
KHALID: Happy to do it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.