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Biden gives strong speech on Ukraine

Dudek Bartosz Kommentarbild App
Bartosz Dudek
March 27, 2022

US President Joe Biden's speech in Warsaw had strong words for Vladimir Putin, but even stronger words in support of a free world. DW's Bartosz Dudek writes that Biden may just have made history.

Biden with mouth open and finger pointed at the sky in front of a US flag backdrop
'We will have a different future,' Biden said on Saturday, 'a brighter future'Image: Aleksandra Szmigiel/REUTERS

They were historic words that US President Joe Biden spoke in Warsaw on Saturday, words that at times recalled the famous speech that John F. Kennedy gave in Berlin, or Winston Churchill's "Blood, Sweat and Tears" address.

The most important words were directed at Russian President Vladimir Putin: The free world stands united — and the Kremlin's imperialist plans will fail. Ukraine has the right to freedom and sovereignty. Putin's decision to invade Ukraine will ruin Russia's economy and rob Russians of the opportunity for a future.

From Poland, Biden sent a clear message to the Russian president: NATO solidarity is a "sacred obligation" and the United States will "defend each and every inch of NATO territory." Spoken before Warsaw's reconstructed Royal Castle — whose destruction by Germany in 1939 is an enduring symbol of the barbarism of war — these words had great meaning for Biden's Polish hosts.

There were also touching moments in Biden's speech. The president said that hours earlier, he had met a Ukrainian girl who had been displaced by the invasion. She asked what would happen to her father and brother, who had stayed behind to fight. It is, in part, this bare humanity and empathy that make Biden the leader of the free world.

US President Joe Biden (center) holds a girl on his arm, surrounded by a crowd of people
Earlier Saturday, Biden met a Ukrainian girl who had been displaced by the invasionImage: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI AFP via Getty Images

'A free society'

Prime Minister Churchill promised no quick and easy victory over tyranny in his 1940 speech. No, it will take a long time — and it will come at a high cost. Germany, too, will have to leave its comfort zone.

Biden's speech was full of praise for his Polish hosts, who, in a great display of humanity, have opened their homes and their hearts to Ukrainians displaced by Russia's invasion. And yet he also had a jab for the ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, listing press freedom among the principles "essential in a free society." A bill vetoed late last year by President Andrzej Duda would have forced the US-owned PiS-critical broadcaster TVN out of the media market.

Saturday's speech began and ended with the words spoken by Poland's John Paul II when he became pope in 1978: "Be not afraid." At the time, these words inspired the resistance to the Soviet-influenced regime in Poland and ultimately helped bring an end to the dictatorship.

Biden's speech 44 years later had the same intent: to inspire courage and to declare an end to tyranny as the goal. "And may God defend our freedom," Biden said.

This article was originally written in German.