Coming off a well-attended, Ukraine-focused Munich Security Conference and this week’s solemn one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, President Biden arrived in Kyiv on February 20 for his first visit since the war began.
Biden’s few hours on the ground included meeting with President Zelenskyy, meeting with US Embassy staff, and paying tribute to fallen Ukrainians. The Kremlin was informed of the visit some hours in advance, for what US officials called “deconfliction purposes.”
Biden arrived with an additional $500m pledge of military and other aid for Ukraine including artillery, ammunition, Javelins anti-tank missiles, air surveillance radars and the promise of an additional sanctions package. More broadly, the visit gave the greatest gift a US president can provide, one of unwavering support to Ukraine for as long as victory takes.
While the visit is welcome for Ukraine, and its allies and partners, it is long overdue. The past few months have brought growing concern about Chinese military support to Russia, a winter of bloody combat for mere feet of territory, and an emerging Russian offensive in the Donbas.
More support is needed, urgently. The Munich Security Conference on February 17-19 brimmed with supportive messaging from world leaders committing to stand with Ukraine, but below the surface, the hallways were filled with debate on the need for various types of equipment for Ukraine, about prolonged timelines for assistance, and questions on how to provide long-term security guarantees to Ukraine.
As Vice President Harris highlighted in her Munich Security Conference speech on February 18, words echoed by the president in Kyiv, the US will support Ukraine “…as long as it takes.” But allies’ and partners’ actions, or the lack of them, will go a long way to determining how long a Ukrainian victory will take. Months-long debates, such as the recent disputes about tanks and combat aircraft, increase the likelihood of protracted conflict.
Hand-wringing over types and timelines of support sends the wrong message to Russia and other potential adversaries on Western resolve. The US, allies, and partners must identify and quickly work to meet Ukrainian assistance needs to guarantee victory. This support includes long-term planning on security guarantees to secure Ukraine’s post-war stability.
Biden’s trip was absolutely necessary to underscore US commitment to Ukraine but words must match actions. And while the US Congress and the President have provided unprecedented
levels of support, aid, and assistance to the Ukrainian military, government, and people — a total approaching $100bn for last year and this — the battlefield is not quiet, the war is not won, and Russia remains a threat to democracies the world over.
Catherine Sendak is the Director of the Transatlantic Defense and Security program at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). Prior to this post, Sendak was the Vice President for Policy and Projects for Business Executives for National Security (BENS). From 2018 to 2021, she was the Principal Director for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia in the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.
Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.