President Biden bound for France to commemorate D-Day

Biden is expected to honor the sacrifice of service members and meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
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Posted at 7:16 PM, Jun 04, 2024

President Biden is traveling to France this week to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, marking the start of a string of significant international engagements.

President Biden is expected to honor the sacrifice of service members in a values-focused trip, and meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as war has once again grasped European soil decades after the end of World War II.

The landing in Normandy on June 6, 1944, that included 73,000 Americans, helped lead to the liberation of Europe from the Nazis.

President Biden is expected to meet with veterans and honor their service, participate in a ceremony commemorating the anniversary in Normandy and deliver remarks on freedom and democracy at Pointe du Hoc, France.

The location marks the point between Omaha and Utah beaches where Army rangers scaled the cliffs against fortified German positions.

“And it’s a way of telling the story, not only of camaraderie on the battlefield, but of camaraderie between democracies that the President really believes is appropriate for this particular moment that we’re living in, this inflection point,” said John Kirby, White House national security communications advisor.

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President Biden’s speech on Friday at the site is expected to connect Allied forces' efforts in World War II to defend freedom and democracy and the post-war international order, to the order threatened by Russian president Vladimir Putin amid his continued war in Ukraine.

President Biden will draw a line from the Cold War and establishment of NATO to the present day, when Europe deals with war and the alliance has rallied together, according to National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.

“He’ll talk about the men who scaled those cliffs and how they put the country ahead of themselves, and he’ll talk about the dangers of isolationism and how if we back dictators, fail to stand up to them, they keep going and ultimately America and the world pays a greater price,” Sullivan said.

It harkens back to then-President Ronald Reagan’s speech in the same location in 1984.

“These are the boys of Pointe du Hoc. These are the men who took the cliffs. These are the champions who helped free a continent. These are the heroes who helped end a war,” Reagan said during the 40th anniversary of D-Day, while in the midst of a reelection campaign against Walter Mondale.

While the trip marks a departure from the campaign trail for President Biden, he has criticized his 2024 opponent, former president Donald Trump, over a 2020 report that Trump referred to service members buried at Aisne-Marne American Cemetery, a World War I cemetery, as “losers” and “suckers.” While Trump has denied the report, a former chief of staff confirmed elements of the original report in The Atlantic to CNN years later.

“Who the hell does he think he is? Who does he think he is? These were heroes. These soldiers were heroes, just as every American who has served this nation. Believing otherwise, that alone is disqualifying for someone to seek this office,” President Biden said last month during a campaign event in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

Under the Biden administration, NATO has expanded in the face of Russia’s aggression, while under the Trump administration, Trump raised questions over the United States’ commitment to NATO, a treaty organization formed following World War II to provide security against the Soviet Union.

"That war showed the world the value of strong alliances and partnerships, which is the lesson that continues to resonate today in Europe and well beyond. This visit will come at an important moment, as Ukraine continues to face down Russian threats in its east and north and as we are working to address the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East,” Kirby said.

The visit culminates with French President Emmanuel Macron hosting President Biden and first lady Jill Biden for a state visit.

“The State Visit will reflect the enduring and comprehensive relationship between the United States and France, our oldest ally, founded on shared democratic values, economic ties, and defense and security cooperation,” the White House previewed in a statement by press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre.

The bilateral meeting between leaders is expected to bring deliverables that deepen coordination in the Indo-Pacific, increase clean energy — including increasing nuclear capacity — and foster cooperation surrounding the Olympics, according to Kirby.

The trip marks the start of significant international engagement for President Biden, who will then attend the G7 summit in Italy next week.

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