US president Joe Biden will visit Poland next week ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Biden’s trip is due to start on Monday (Feb. 20), but according to the Polish president’s office, the US leader will only arrive in the European country the following day (Feb. 21). Biden plans to give a speech pledging continued financial and political support for Ukraine and the entire NATO alliance.
Biden’s speech will take place less than 500 miles from Ukraine. The last time he visited the region, he made a surprise visit to the Polish-Ukrainian border, where he met with NATO troops and Ukrainian refugees. Biden’s proximity to Kyiv on the eve of the war’s milestone led to speculation of a possible visit to the country, which several European leaders have undertaken in the past year. The White House has not indicated whether this might happen. (Update: Joe Biden visited Kyiv on Monday, Feb. 20, ahead of his trip to Poland)
Besides meeting Polish president Andrzej Duda, Biden is also due to hold talks with the leaders of the Bucharest Nine, a group of former Soviet republics currently part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) which, besides Poland, includes Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Slovakia.
Biden’s trip to Poland coincides with Russian president Vladimir Putin’s annual State of the Nation address, scheduled for Feb. 21, when he is expected to announce a new military offensive in Ukraine this spring. In 2022, instead of the customary address, Putin recognized Ukraine’s separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent on Feb. 21, and gave an address in the early hours of Feb. 24 before Russian tanks began rolling into Ukraine.
Last week, the Pentagon announced a new $2.5 billion security package for Ukraine. The package includes armored vehicles and tanks, as well as ammunition and rockets for the HIMARS system Ukraine has used to successfully strike Russian field command posts. The US has committed $26.7 billion in military aid to Ukraine since Russia’s initial invasion, but with the Republican party now holding a majority in the House of Representatives, it remains to be seen how much additional aid US lawmakers will commit to supporting the country.
200,000: Estimated number of Russian soldiers killed and wounded during the invasion of Ukraine. This is a significantly higher number than most analysts expected, demonstrating just how poorly Putin’s invasion has gone
30,000: Approximate number of Ukrainian civilians killed during Russia’s invasions. According to the same estimate, more than 100,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or wounded in the past year
54%: Proportion of Ukrainian territory the country’s troops have reclaimed from Russia’s occupation
500,000: The approximate number of Russians who have left the country since the invasion, with some estimates counting as many as a million people. The exodus has mostly been driven by young, military-age men looking to avoid conscription
48%: Less than half of Americans support sending military aid to Ukraine. The figure has declined from 60% last spring, after right-wing politicians in the US used the spending as a political tool to attack president Biden
Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko invited Biden to extend his trip to Europe with a visit to Minsk and a joint meeting with Putin, even offering to send a plane to Poland to pick him up. A staunch ally of the Kremlin, the man often dubbed Europe’s last dictator has strongly supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and claimed to stand ready to join Russia’s war in Ukraine if attacked.
“Why is Biden going to Poland? Why Poland? We’re cool with that. But if he is willing we are ready to host him in Minsk,” Lukashenko said in a press conference this week, adding, “Poland is nearby, I will send a plane if anything, a Boeing for him, and we will host him.” The reference to the US manufacturer might have been a nod to last year’s sanctions on the Belarusian state airline using American-made airplanes.
Belarus has a relatively small army, measured at approximately 60,000 military personnel, and largely relies on its ties with the Russian army for national defense. The landlocked country shares a border with both Russia and Ukraine.
Update: This piece was updated to mention Biden’s visit to Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.