The red line was crossed. What signal did Biden send to Putin and what is Xi Jinping preparing?
Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Photo:ОП)
This visit is not just important for us, it is unprecedented for the United States
I won’t go into all of American history, but for at least the last 30 years, and maybe more, there has been nothing like this in the history of the United States. I will explain why.
We have been waiting for such a visit for a long time. The last time [someone visited] Kyiv was George Bush Jr. in 2008. We were waiting for Barack Obama to come: unfortunately it did not happen, even after 2014, when this visit would have been very important for us. Donald Trump was also invited, but there were few hopes. When Joe Biden came to power, hopes were also high, especially taking into account that he has been to Kyiv many times and knows Ukraine well.
But I will tell you one very revealing story. A year ago in Munich, on the outskirts of the Munich Conference, there was an off-the-record meeting of a group of our parliamentarians and several members of the public with the former director of the CIA. He was asked: "Why doesn't the US president come to Kyiv?"
Let me remind you, in the middle of February, everyone was expecting a Russian attack on Ukraine, the Americans were warning about it, the embassies were being evacuated.
His answer was as follows: "The US president does not have the last word on all issues. There are situations when he does not decide where he should go, the security service decides, there are personal security interests of the U.S. president, if there are threats - there can be no visits."
The United States and President Biden personally are not afraid of Putin
There was no war then, but security interests worked against a visit to Kyiv. Now the war is here. Kyiv is the capital of a warring country. Yes, U.S. presidents sometimes visited their troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. There were several such precedents, but those were their own military, these were visits to their own. And here — to the capital of a warring country. This is an unprecedented phenomenon in modern U.S. history, so it's definitely an event.
Why else is it important? For us, the fact of a visit under such conditions is a gesture of support. A signal that the U.S. is with us and will continue being with us.
Even more important is the signal to Moscow ahead of Putin's much-anticipated speech on the anniversary of Russia's attack on Ukraine. This is a signal to Putin that the United States and President Biden personally are not afraid of Putin, not afraid of Putin's Russia. In fact, this is the crossing of another red line.
And I would say this: in this psychological duel between the USA and Russia (and, by the way, even American publications write about this), Biden performed a psychological knockdown of Putin (unfortunately, not yet a knockout). This is a signal that they are not afraid of Putin, are not afraid of his missile attacks, and will continue to support Ukraine. This, in my opinion, is the greatest meaning of this visit. Not including, of course, the specific arrangements and negotiations.
We can expect calls and simply malicious hysteria in the Russian Federation tonight — "why weren't there any missile attacks on Kyiv? why didn't they hit Biden?" and so on. Why do I say that this is a signal — the Americans are not afraid. Russia and Putin have to swallow this. That is why they talk about humiliating Russians.
An additional meaning of this visit is that it should work for Biden's domestic political interests. This is the answer for his opponents, who constantly criticize saying that Biden is weak, that he is not decisive, timid, and here he came to the capital of a country where there is a war. Here is a direct and concrete answer to criticism of indecision. I have already heard feedback from some Americanists. They say that, perhaps, thanks to this visit, Biden will go down in American history. Even visually, this picture — how Biden is walking next to Zelensky in the open air to the sounds of air raid sirens - can influence public opinion in the United States, which is also important for us, because there is discussion between Republicans and Democrats on the amount of aid to Ukraine. So here, too, there is an important internal political aspect for political competition in the USA on the eve of the start of presidential elections.
After Kyiv, Joe Biden went to Poland. His speech was announced there. Russian dictator Putin also addressed the Federal Assembly on February 21. On the anniversary of the large-scale invasion on February 24, Chinese leader Xi Jinping should announce some concept of peace from China. I don't expect any big sensations from these three speeches.
Putin will argue that he started this war for a reason, that it was the right decision, and this, you know, will be an attempt to convince himself that everything was right, "I was not wrong." But it is necessary to convince the Russian citizens, who are increasingly doubtful: the war has been going on for a year, and there is no victory. And, yes, we will hear the call that Russia will fight till victory. There will be some other questions, internal rather, about social assistance to the military. But this will be a propaganda performance - a justification of this war, and Putin's attempt to somehow mobilize Russians to continue this war.
It is more interesting and controversial with China. But I pay attention: the head of Chinese diplomacy, Mr. Wang Yi, specially came to Europe, he took part in the Munich conference, met there with French President Macron, other European leaders, and met with our foreign minister. Today he is in Moscow. I think that he is discussing the details of China's individual peace initiative and after that it will be adjusted, and it will be presented by the Chinese leader Xi Jinping by himself.
China's pressure on Russia is important in order to finish this war. I don't think it will have an immediate effect, but each signal of the need for peace from China will be important. However, why am I not expecting a sensation? Because China's interests are twofold. They may call for an end to the war, perhaps offer some compromise structures, but China is in a political-ecological confrontation with the United States. Therefore, I think that they will look for a compromise so that, let's say, the United States does not win in the current confrontation. China is not interested in helping the Western world and Ukraine to win this war. This is the paradox of the situation.
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