Biden, with France visit, looks to past and future of global conflicts 

The White House; Paris — U.S. President Joe Biden landed Wednesday in France to mark the 80th anniversary of the Normandy invasion — and plans to use the occasion to underscore the need for a strong transatlantic alliance in the face of Russian aggression in Ukraine.

Biden will meet Ukraine’s president, and with surviving American veterans of the 1944 beach invasion, said national security adviser Jake Sullivan. Biden will use the events, Sullivan said, to “talk about, against the backdrop of war in Europe today, the sacrifices that those heroes and those veterans made 80 years ago and how it’s our obligation to continue their mission to fight for freedom.”

Sullivan, who spoke to reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Paris, said Biden will also deliver a speech on Friday at Normandy that will cover “the existential fight between dictatorship and freedom” — all while overlooking a 30-meter tall cliff that Army Rangers had to scale under enemy gunfire to win the battle that eventually led to France’s liberation and the demise of Nazi Germany.

“And he’ll talk about the dangers of isolationism and how, if we bow to dictators, fail to stand up to them, they keep going and ultimately America and the world pays a greater price,” he said.

Biden will also attend a state visit hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron, in addition to face-to-face talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who has been invited to the somber ceremonies marking this decisive battle that led to the end of World War II.

American presidents have regularly made the journey for this critical anniversary, and Biden is no exception.

“The president is very much looking forward to going to Normandy over the course of the next two days of this week to commemorate the service and the sacrifice, the bravery of the soldiers, Allied and American alike, who fought in D-Day in that invasion, conducted Operation Overlord and really spelled through that operation, the beginning of the end of Nazi Germany, and the beginning of something even more impactful, and that’s this rules-based international order that we all still continue to enjoy today,” John Kirby, White House national security communications adviser, told VOA at the White House.

Here, analysts say, history offers lessons.

“The D-Day landings were the Western Allies’ military statement that authoritarian regimes could not change boundaries by force,” said Mark Cancian, a retired Marine colonel and a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. ”That countries could not just be invaded, and that authoritarian regimes of the type that Nazi Germany constituted — particularly with its terrible oppression of subjugated peoples, particularly the Jews — were not acceptable and not just not acceptable, but would be destroyed.”

Analysts say Biden’s Ukraine goals will be overshadowed by his increasingly unpopular support of another conflict.

“Even though obviously Ukraine is the top priority for the Europeans, they are seeing how the Biden administration’s policy on Gaza is undermining European security in two different ways,” said Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute.

“First of all, it is really destroying Western credibility in the broader international community and in the Global South — any talk about the rules-based international order at this point, will get laughed at, given what the Biden administration has done.”

This trip to France, a close ally, comes at the start of six weeks of high-level U.S. involvement in high-stakes summits — including a peace summit on Ukraine, a summit of leaders of the Group of Seven, or G7, leading industrialized countries, and a summit of NATO members.

VOA asked Sullivan what this set of diplomatic events could mean for peace in Europe, and beyond.

“I think we need to send a clear message to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin that he cannot outlast us, and that he cannot divide us,” he replied. “And we have been very good at holding the line on those two messages, and this is going to be a great opportunity over the coming weeks to not just put a period at the end of that sentence, but an exclamation point.”

Patsy Widakuswara contributed from the White House.

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