1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Joe Biden in Poland says Ukraine 'stands free'

February 21, 2023

The US president drew a comparison with his last visit to Warsaw when questions loomed about how Washington and its allies would respond to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. He said the answer was now clear.

President Joe Biden holds a speech at the Royal Castle after meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw
Biden said the West had not been planning to attack Russia and that the war was Putin's choiceImage: Michal Dyjuk/AP/picture alliance

US President Joe Biden spoke after he met Polish President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw on Tuesday during a two-day visit ahead of the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and on the ninth anniversary of the start of the war in Ukraine.

Biden delivered his address in front of the Polish capital's Royal Castle several hours after President Vladimir Putin in Moscow delivered a much-noticed state of the nation speech.

What the US president said

The US president warned of "hard and bitter days" ahead, but said the US and its allies would "have Ukraine's back" for the long haul.

Biden noted that it was almost a year ago that he last spoke at the castle, "just weeks after Vladimir Putin had unleashed his murderous assault on Ukraine."

"The principles that had been the cornerstone of peace, prosperity, and stability on this planet for more than 75 years were at risk of being shattered."

"One year ago, the world was bracing for the fall of Kyiv. Well, I've just come 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 invasion, he said, meant the whole world faced "a test for the ages."

"Would we respond or would we look the other way? Would we be strong or would we be weak? Would all of our allies be united, or divided?"

"One year later, we know the answer. We would respond, we would be strong, we would be united, and the world would not look the other way."

"We're seeing again today what the people of Poland and the people across Europe saw for decades. Appetites of the autocrat cannot be appeased. They must be opposed."

US President Joe Biden pays surprise visit to Kyiv

"Autocrats only understand one word — No, no, no. No, you will not take my country. No, you will not take my freedom. No, you will not take my future."

"I'll repeat tonight what I said last year in 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 will never be a victory for Russia."

Biden also responded to an anti-West speech made by Putin earlier Tuesday, in which the Russian president claimed it was Russia, not Ukraine, fighting for its very existence.

"The West is not plotting to attack Russia as Putin said today," Biden said. "Millions of Russian citizens who only want to live in peace with their neighbors are not the enemy."

What the two presidents said earlier

Earlier, Polish television showed Duda greeting Biden in front of the presidential palace.

The US president described NATO as "maybe the most consequential alliance in history," and he said it's "stronger than its ever been'' despite Putin's hopes that it would split over the war in Ukraine.

"We have to have security in Europe,'' Biden said at the presidential palace in Warsaw. "It's that basic, that simple, that consequential.''

The US president is in the Polish capital after a surprise hours-long stop in Kyiv, where he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and offered Washington's "unwavering" support. The US president's visit to Ukraine was his first since Russia's invasion on February 24 last year.

Duda praised Biden's trip as "spectacular," saying it had boosted morale of those defending Ukraine. He said the visit was "a sign that the free world, and its biggest leader, the president of the United States, stands by them."

Polish President Andrzej Duda, right, welcomes President Joe Biden at the Presidential Palace in Warsaw
Duda praised Biden's visit to neighboring Ukraine, saying it had lifted moraleImage: Czarek Sokolowski/AP/picture alliance

The US president will meet representatives of other eastern European NATO countries on Wednesday.

Polish television showed Biden's Air Force One landing in Warsaw on Monday night.

Why is Biden in Poland?

The Kyiv stop was a surprise one, but the White House had announced the two-day Poland visit earlier this month.

Poland is seeking a greater US troop presence on its territory.

On Sunday, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said, "We are in the process of discussion with President Biden's administration about making their [troop] presence more permanent and increasing them," during an interview with US broadcaster CBS.

Last June, Biden said the US would set up a new permanent army headquarters in Poland in response to Russian threats.

rmt,rc/ar (dpa, Reuters)