President Joe Biden stumbled in a speech to American troops stationed in Poland on Friday, previewing what they would see when they arrived in Ukraine.
“You’re going to see, when you’re there, and some of you have been there, you’re going to see women, young people, standing in front of a damn tank just saying, ‘I’m not leaving, I’m holding my ground,'” Biden said. “They’re incredible.”
The president spoke to a small group of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division stationed in the Polish city of Rzeszow.
Biden repeatedly spoke about Ukraine to the troops, telling them they were there to support the Ukrainian people, even though he has repeatedly promised not to send American troops into the country.
“What’s at stake, not just that what we’re doing here in Ukraine to try to help the Ukrainian people and keep the massacre from continuing,” he said. “Beyond that, what is at stake, is what are your kids and grandkids going to look like in terms of their freedom.”
Biden told the American troops they were in a generational fight against the forces of autocrats.
“What you’re engaged in is much more than just whether or not you can alleviate the pain and suffering of the people of Ukraine. We’re in a new phase, your generation, we’re in an inflection point,” he said.
“You’re in the midst of a fight between democracies and oligarchs,” he added.
The president spoke about his years of foreign policy experience traveling around the world, first as a senator and then as Vice President for former President Barack Obama’s administration.
“The Ukrainian people have a lot of backbone, they have a lot of guts and I’m sure you’re observing it,” he said. “And I don’t mean just the military, we’ve been training since back when Russia moved in the southeast Ukraine, but also the average citizen.”
He recalled former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright’s saying that the United States was an “essential nation” to the world, and he said they served as the “organizing principle” for future generations across the globe.
“Fundamental change takes place, the world ain’t going to be the same, not because of Ukraine, but we are not going to be the same 10-15 years from now in terms of our organizational structures,” he said, discussing whether democracy would prevail or autocracy.
Biden said he had no problem ordering another 12,000 troops to the Eastern flank of NATO, noting there were 100,000 American forces in Europe to bolster their strength.
The president repeatedly thanked the troops, noting that what they were doing was “consequential” for the future of democracy.
“It’s not only what you’re doing to help the Ukrainian people. It’s not only what you’re doing to help Europe begin to regain its confidence,” he said.
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