President Joe Biden has visited US troops stationed near Poland’s border with Ukraine and is getting a first-hand look at the humanitarian response to the millions of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion of their homeland.
Mr Biden’s first stop was with members of the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division, visiting a barber’s and dining facility set up for the troops, where he shared some pizza.
The Americans are serving alongside Polish troops.
He arrived on Friday afternoon at the airport in Rzeszow, the largest city in south-eastern Poland, where some US troops are based.
He shared an anecdote about visiting his late son, Beau Biden, while he was deployed in Baghdad and going by his mother’s maiden name so as not to draw attention to himself.
“You are the finest fighting force in the world and that’s not hyperbole,” Mr Biden said before sitting down on a folding chair to eat with the group.
He will be in Warsaw on Saturday for talks with Polish President Andrzej Duda and others. The Polish leader was due to welcome Mr Biden at the airport on Friday but his plane was delayed by a technical problem.
The European Union says some 3.5 million Ukrainians — half of them children — have fled the country, with more than 2.2 million ending up in Poland.
The US Congress this month approved spending more than 13 billion dollars on humanitarian and military assistance for Ukraine. The administration has begun allocating those funds.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Mr Biden will hear directly from the American troops and humanitarian experts about the situation on the ground and “what further steps need to be taken to make sure that we’re investing” US dollars in the right place.
Mr Biden, who spent Thursday lobbying US allies to stay united against Russia, speculated that what he sees in Poland “will reinforce my commitment to have the United States make sure we are a major piece of dealing with the relocation of all those folks, as well as humanitarian assistance needed both inside Ukraine and outside Ukraine”.
Speaking in Brussels after meetings with other world leaders, Mr Biden said he had visited many war zones and refugee camps during his political career and “it’s devastating” to see young children without parents or men and women with blank looks on their faces wondering: “My God, where am I? What’s going to happen to me?”
He said Poland, Romania and Germany should nor be left on their own to deal with the largest refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War.
“This is an international responsibility,” Mr Biden said shortly after he announced 1 billion dollars in additional assistance to help Ukrainian refugees.
He also announced that the United States would take in up to 100,000 of those refugees.