A Photo-Op Drama – How President Biden Made A Surprise Trip To Ukraine “After” Getting Permission From Russia

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Feb 23 2023
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Instead of the well-known Air Force One, President Joe Biden boarded Air Force C-32 – a modified Boeing 757 used for domestic trips to smaller airports. Bearing the call sign SAM060 (Special Air Mission), the POTUS was on a secret trip which had been planned many months ahead. The mission – gets a photo-op to project his image as a tough leader.


National security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said Biden’s trip was the first time a U.S. president had visited the capital of the country at war where the U.S. military does not control the critical infrastructure. The president was on his way to visit Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. Biden hoped his visit to “war zones” would boost his approval rating, which has been dropping like a rock.


The so-called surprising visit to Kyiv, four days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion on Feb 24, was vital not only for Biden’s image, but also to enhance solidarity among the Europe and NATO members. The White House revealed that only a handful of aides, medical staff and one reporter and a photographer tagged along with the U.S. president.

President Joe Biden Visit Ukraine - St Michael Cathedral

The reporter, Sabrina Siddiqui from The Wall Street Journal, revealed how they had been sworn to secrecy and their phones were confiscated during the entire journey, and were returned only after Biden finally arrived in the Ukrainian capital. Inside the Boeing 757, the shade on every window had been pulled down and they cannot leave the plane.


First, Biden was taken to Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, outside of Washington. He then would fly overnight – about 7 hours – to the U.S. Ramstein Air Base in Germany. After refuelling, the POTUS was flown to Rzeszow in southeastern Poland. After a 1-hour drive, he arrived in Przemysl, the closest city to the Poland-Ukraine border. But the lengthy tiring trip did not end there.


It must be an excruciating painful journey for the 80-year-old president, who is believed to be suffering from dementia, to continue his journey on a 10-hour train ride to Kyiv – in the dark and under heavy security. Reporter and commentator Savanah Hernandez likes to mock Biden as “a joke” and an “international laughing stock”, saying – “It’s horrifying to see a dementia patient running my country”.

President Joe Biden Visit Ukraine - Inside Train

Biden’s train, started on Sunday night, finally reached its destination at the Kyiv-Pasazhyrsky station in the Ukrainian capital at about 8am on Monday. The POTUS and his small group of top officials were on the ground in Kyiv for only about 6 hours – sufficient to capture all the necessary photo-op stunt with Ukrainian President Zelensky, who also needed the visit as a signal of U.S. support for his government.


Appearing with Zelensky at the presidential palace, Biden proudly declared – “One year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.” Altogether, the U.S. president was on Ukrainian territory for about 23 hours, travelling by train from and back to Poland. He also announced an additional US$500 million in U.S. assistance.


Despite the secrecy and Western media highlighting Biden’s bravery, however, the world’s most powerful man had actually given Moscow a heads up. Sullivan admitted that the White House alerted the Kremlin about the visit to prevent any potential misunderstanding or miscalculation. Only after getting the “green light” from Moscow did Joe Biden dare cross the border into Ukraine.

President Joe Biden Visit Ukraine - Presidential Palace

While Biden’s visit could also be translated as his kickoff campaign to seek re-election in 2024, Russia too has capitalized on the U.S. president’s trip to create the narrative that Zelensky is a stooge of the U.S. government. Russian state television that covered the visit extensively quickly trumpeted how the Ukrainian president “looked like a servant next to Biden”.


Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of Russia’s Security Council and former president, said Moscow has provided “safety guarantees”. Russia 1-TV channel said – “Everyone knows that if Russia said it would not hit Kyiv during a visit of some statesmen there, it means this will never happen because we are the ones who keep our word”.


The clearest sign that it was a political drama was when air raid sirens suddenly went off, but did not cause any panic. Biden and Zelensky, flanked by armed security, calmly walked at St Michael’s Cathedral. According to Reuters, there were not reports of the Russian strike so the siren was deliberately triggered to make it more dramatic as if the U.S. president was Rambo.

President Joe Biden Visit Ukraine - Military

As expected, Democrats immediately praised the president. But not everyone could be hoodwinked over the political drama. Donald Trump Jr tweeted – “Of course Joe Biden is in Ukraine and not Ohio”, referencing to the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, which Biden chose to ignore. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene labelled the visit as “incredibly insulting”.


She said – “Joe Biden, the President of the United States, chose Ukraine over America, while forcing the American people to pay for Ukraine’s government and war”. Republican Scott Perry, on the other hand, said it was “breathtaking that President Biden can show up in Ukraine to ensure their border is secure, but can’t do the same for America.”


Just one day after Biden’s visit to Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow has suspended the New START nuclear arms treaty between the U.S. and Russia that limits the number of nuclear warheads in each country’s arsenal. First signed in April 2010, the treaty limits both military superpowers from having more than 1,550 nuclear warheads.


In 2017, President Donald Trump too gave Russia advance notice before launching cruise missile strikes on a Syrian air base which the U.S. claimed was storing chemical weapons. The Pentagon gave up the element of surprise for fear of the consequences if Russian military personnel on the ground get killed. In 2018, Trump again tipped off Moscow of incoming missile strike.


In fact, the U.S. shared with Russia a list of targets it planned to hit, so that Moscow can get its forces out of the way. Of course, in the process, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government ha also been warned of the attacks. Russia had threatened to shoot down any hostile missiles or fighter jets, leading to prospect of direct confrontation between Washington and Moscow.


Despite hostile rhetoric toward each other, the world’s two greatest military and nuclear powers have something called “deconfliction channel” to avoid escalating conflict. Even if the U.S. wanted to keep Biden’s visit top secret, they can’t. The current active war zone is being surveilled by the Russian’s electronic warfare aircraft, with Ukraine penetrated by Russian agents.

Russia Avangard Hypersonic Missile

The Commander-in-Chief’s motorcade as well as a fleet of armoured vehicles that had been brought in before the visit would have given away about the trip. The presence of Ukrainian police and military forces and the lockdown of much of the central part of Kyiv, paralysing traffic nearby, was another red flag. Had the U.S. not informed Russia in advance, missiles raining on the capital might “accidentally” kill the POTUS.

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