President Joe Biden’s visit to Kyiv on Monday, Feb 20th, marks his first visit to Ukraine since Russia launched a full-scale invasion almost a year ago. The visit underscores the President’s personal commitment to Ukraine and its struggle as the conflict enters a new phase. The visit, shrouded in secrecy, coincided with air raid sirens in Kyiv as Biden and President Volodymyr Zelensky walked around St. Michael’s Cathedral. This visit comes at a critical moment in the conflict, as Russia prepares for an anticipated spring offensive while Ukraine hopes to regain lost territory. President Biden announced a new assistance package of half a billion dollars, which includes military equipment such as artillery ammunition, javelins, and Howitzers. Furthermore, he stated that new sanctions against Moscow would be imposed later this week.
In an effort to alter the course of the conflict, the United States and other Western countries have been expediting the delivery of tanks, ammunition, and other arms to Ukraine. By making a personal visit to the country, President Biden is presenting a symbolic display of American support for President Zelensky, who has been striving to rally global support for Ukraine and urging greater assistance. After a long and covert journey from Washington, Biden arrived in Kyiv at 8 a.m. local time and proceeded to the Mariinsky Palace 30 minutes later. He left Kyiv in the early afternoon.
US officials have expressed optimism in private that the significant increase in arms shipments to Ukraine, including new vehicles, longer-range missiles, and Patriot air defense systems, could enhance Ukraine’s battlefield capabilities and empower President Zelensky to negotiate a resolution to the conflict. However, it remains to be seen what conditions Zelensky is willing to agree to in peace talks. The US has consistently declined to specify the terms of a settlement beyond acknowledging that it is Zelensky’s prerogative to determine.