With the GOP now controlling the House of Representatives, Joe Biden can’t pass Ukraine funding bills quite as easily as before: President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday. The trip, which saw the president walk the streets of the Ukrainian capital city just as other world leaders have done over the last year, comes just days before the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Joe Biden Visits Kyiv
“As the world prepares to mark the one-year anniversary of Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, I am in Kyiv today to meet with President Zelenskyy and reaffirm our unwavering and unflagging commitment to Ukraine’s democracy, sovereignty, and territorial integrity,” a statement from the White House reads, adding that the president was meeting Zelenskyy and his team for an “extended discussion” on the United States’ support for Ukraine.
The discussions, as the statement goes on to say, focused on artillery ammunition, anti-armor systems, air-surveillance radars, and more.
Given Zelenskyy’s insistence to allies all over the world about the importance of providing fighter jets to Ukraine, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s recent promise to deliver long-range missiles, the topic of the United States providing fighter jets and long-range missile systems likely also arose during meetings with the president.
The president has yet to publicly declare that he is willing to send fighter jets to Ukraine – and it isn’t certain that he ever will – but he did confirm on Monday that the United States will send an additional $500 million in weaponry for Ukraine.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also said on Monday, after Biden’s visit was publicized, that the White House gave the Kremlin just “hours” notice about the trip. According to Sullivan, Russia was only informed about the trip moments before he left the country, and said details of the trip were only shared for “de-confliction purposes.”
Why Now? Bad News for Ukraine?
President Joe Biden is not the first leader to visit Ukraine, but it doesn’t make the trip any less significant.
This is the first time the president has visited Ukraine since the outbreak of the war, and his late arrival – which was likely to occur sooner or later – could represent one of two things.
While Biden’s trip to Kyiv was obviously a show of support for Ukraine and a nod to Russia that the United States is not giving up, it may also have been organized with the intention of delivering some harsh truths directly to Kyiv.
With the Republicans now controlling the House of Representatives, Biden can’t pass Ukraine funding bills quite as easily as before. The United States is also running low on some weapons and ammunition, and has been for months, and could soon be forced to choose between arming Ukraine or ensuring the United States is properly equipped to defend itself in the event of a military incident.
The White House must communicate this truth with Kyiv, and this visit may have been an opportunity to do that. It may also have been a chance for Joe Biden to explain his concerns about delivering long-range missiles and fighter jets – which also means it was a good opportunity for Zelenskyy to lay out, once again, all the reasons he believes that he needs them.
Does Putin Care?
Military pundits in Russia appear to be angry about the visit, and not just because of Biden’s presence but because of Russia’s failure to take control of Kyiv despite a year of conflict.
CNN revealed some of the most notable examples of Russian military officials and pundits complaining about the visit, including one Telegram post that mocked Biden for getting to Kyiv before Putin did.
“Almost a year after the beginning of the Special military operation, we are waiting in the Russian city of [Kyiv] for the president of the Russian Federation, but not for the [President of the] United States,” a post by a Telegram channel run by servicemembers of the Russian military reads.
Former Russian Federal Security Service officer and army veteran Igor Girkin also appeared to express frustration that the Russian military is being too soft in Ukraine. Girkin referred to Biden as “grandfather” and predicted that, should he make it to the frontlines in Bakhmut, he would still be safe from the Russian military.
“Wouldn’t be surprised if the grandfather (he is not good for anything but simple provocations anyway) is brought to Bakhmut as well… AND NOTHING WILL HAPPEN TO HIM,” Girkin reportedly said.
Putin could well care more about the response by his own people to Biden’s visit than the actual visit itself. Ultimately, the trip changes very little, and unless new dramatic plans to support Ukraine were agreed upon during the meeting, Biden is likely to return to the United States and the conflict will continue, just as it has after every other world leader visited the city.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.