When I woke up yesterday morning and the first thing in my newsfeed was that President Biden was, at that very moment, in Ukraine, I was surprised, to say the least. I knew he had hoped to visit, but last I heard, the trip was unlikely to take place due to security concerns. The news of his time spent with President Zelenskyy reinforced my views that President Biden is a good and decent man. It also reinforced what I’ve been saying for a while – don’t judge him by the number of years he’s been on this earth. Biden has a reserve of energy that would put most people half his age to shame. Former policy advisor and political journalist Taegan Goddard said that the trip “will likely go down as one of the most important moments of his presidency.”
Eugene Robinson, writing for The Washington Post, gives us a bit of insight into Biden’s trip …
Biden’s Kyiv visit shows Putin seriously misjudged his courage and resolve
20 February 2023
As President Biden walked the streets of Kyiv on Monday beside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, air raid sirens began to wail. A Russian fighter jet had reportedly taken off from Belarus, carrying the type of hypersonic missile that Ukraine’s defenders cannot shoot down. The two leaders did not flinch.
Say what you want about Biden, he lacks neither courage nor resolve. His surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital might be the first time a sitting president has braved an active war zone — with no inviolable U.S. military cordon around him — since 1864, when Abraham Lincoln went to see the fighting at Fort Stevens, near the northern tip of the District of Columbia, and came under fire from Confederate sharpshooters. “Get down, you damn fool!” shouted a young Union officer named Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., who later served as a justice on the Supreme Court.
No one took a potshot or fired a missile at Biden. But to reach Kyiv he had to endure a 10-hour train ride from Poland — followed, after his visit with Zelensky, by another 10-hour journey back to safety. The president spent a full day exposed to potential Russian fire.
What many people fail to understand about Biden, the oldest president in our history, is the extent to which he is guided by a sense of mission. He came out of retirement and ran for the White House only because he believed he had the unique ability, and thus the obligation, to save the nation from another four years of Donald Trump. And he has faced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with the same burden of duty imposed by history.
“I’m a great respecter of fate,” Biden said last year, having seen so much of it during his long and eventful life: He lost his first wife and daughter to a car accident, lost his first son to cancer, almost lost his second son to drug addiction. And in 1988, he suffered two brain aneurysms and was given no better than a 50 percent chance of survival.
In his 2007 book, “Promises to Keep,” Biden wrote: “Maybe I should have been frightened at this point, but I felt calm. In fact, I felt becalmed, like I was floating gently in the wide-open sea. It surprised me, but I had no real fear of dying.”
In Kyiv alongside Zelensky, Biden walked with the cautious gait of an 80-year-old man. Perhaps Russian President Vladimir Putin, in deciding to launch the invasion, thought Biden’s age meant his response would be one of weakness or vacillation. If so, he neglected to take into account Biden’s deep and abiding Roman Catholic faith, his belief in destiny, his commitment to the rules-based international order — and the fact that Biden is rarely more animated than when he talks about drag racing in his Corvette at triple-digit speeds. He is a man with considerable tolerance for risk.
Biden and Zelensky reminisced about the awful moment when the war began. “Russian planes were in the air and tanks were rolling across your border. … You said that you didn’t know when we’d be able to speak again,” Biden said. “That dark night one year ago, the world was literally at the time bracing for the fall of Kyiv. … Perhaps even the end of Ukraine. You know, one year later, Kyiv stands. And Ukraine stands. Democracy stands. The Americans stand with you, and the world stands with you.”
Other world leaders allied with Ukraine have visited Kyiv, as have other high-ranking U.S. officials, including former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). But Zelensky said Monday’s was “the most important visit in the whole history of the Ukraine-U.S. relationship” — and that was an understatement.
Without Biden’s leadership and diplomacy, it is hard to imagine how the NATO alliance could have been made stronger by Putin’s invasion, rather than weaker. Without Biden and Congress providing what almost amounts to an open spigot of military and economic aid, it is hard to imagine Ukraine not only surviving the Russian onslaught but also reclaiming lost territory and inflicting massive casualties on Putin’s forces.
I should also mention Vice President Harris, who last year, at the annual Munich Security Conference, warned of the “imminent” Russian invasion at a time when some allies were still skeptical that Putin would pull the trigger. Last week, at this year’s Munich gathering, she laid out a compelling case for holding Putin and his soldiers criminally responsible for “crimes against humanity.”
It would be no surprise if Putin reacted to the Biden visit with a deadly barrage of missiles against civilian targets. No one can keep Putin from waging his war. But Biden can — and will — keep him from winning it.
There will be critics of Biden’s trip, both within the U.S. and from outside, but in my book what the president did was courageous and was the right thing to do. Full stop.