Biden in Ukraine: How the president's unexpected trip there was concealed

Both Volodymyr Zelensky and Joe Biden

It was a risky trip that was essentially unheard of for a US president.

White House officials call Joe Biden's unannounced trip to Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, "unprecedented in modern times," given that he was showing up in a conflict area that was frequently being attacked.

Previous presidential visits to conflict-affected Iraq and Afghanistan allegedly had the support of a sizable US military presence.

And even though there was a lot of press speculation that Mr. Biden might be planning a trip to Ukraine while he was in Poland, the visit still completely caught everyone off guard.

Anything he says in a speech in Poland is overshadowed by the sight of him standing next to President Volodymyr Zelensky in the middle of Kyiv while air raid sirens are sounding.

According to Kate Bedingfield, director of communications for the White House, "It was risky and should leave no doubt in anyone's mind that Joe Biden is a leader who takes commitment seriously.".

On Monday evening, Mr. Biden was supposed to take a two-day trip from the US to Warsaw.

Many people speculated that he might enter Ukraine during two suspiciously long gaps in his itinerary that were noted in the advance schedule.

Reporters have inquired about a visit frequently during the daily White House press briefings. We were informed that neither a meeting with Mr. Zelensky nor any stops outside of Warsaw were planned as of "right now.".

Even though it had been discussed for months with a few of the presidents' top aides, the decision to travel to Kyiv was only made in its entirety on Friday.

As of Sunday, the president was still scheduled to depart for Warsaw on Monday night at 19:00 Eastern Time (00:00 GMT). In fact, on Sunday morning, Air Force One departed at 04:15 EST.

A medical team, security personnel, and a small group of his closest assistants were on board.

Only two journalists were permitted to accompany the president on his trip. They were given a confidentiality oath and had their cell phones taken away. Before Mr. Biden arrived in Kiev, they were not permitted to report the visit.

According to Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser for the United States, Russia was informed of the trip a few hours before Mr. Biden's departure.

In his words, "I won't get into how they responded or what the specific nature of our message was, but I can confirm we provided that notice," the US "did so for deconfliction purposes.".

After that, President Biden traveled for ten hours by train to reach Kyiv. He could have traveled to other, more accessible places in Ukraine, but he wanted to make the symbolic trip to Kyiv itself.

The president's visit serves as a demonstration to US voters at home as well as a signal to Moscow of the Biden administration's commitment to aiding Ukraine.

Karine Jean-Pierre, his press secretary, was questioned last week regarding polls that indicate a waning of American support for Ukraine.

She responded that whenever the president speaks, he is addressing both the American people and the global community. The purpose of Monday's message is to forcefully refute the minority of Republican voices that wonder how long the US can support Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the unexpected visit has forced journalists like me, who had assumed they would be traveling to Poland with Mr. Biden later on Monday, to board a different plane than Air Force One.

Only when the president is on board is the infamous call sign used.

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