Biden Defends Democracy, Quotes JP2 in Big Warsaw Speech

Photo by Ahmed Zalabany on Unsplash

Highlights from US President Joe Biden’s speech in Warsaw, Poland:

“Be not afraid.” These were the first words that the first public address of the first Polish pope after his election in October of 1978, they were the words who would come to define Pope John Paul II. Words that would change the world.

John Paul brought the message here to Warsaw in his first trip back home as pope in June of 1979. It was a message about the power, the power of faith, the power of resilience, the power of the people. In the face of a cruel and brutal system of government, it was a message that helped end the Soviet repression in the central land in Eastern Europe 30 years ago.

It was a message that we’ll overcome the cruelty and brutality of this unjust war. When Pope John Paul brought that message in 1979, the Soviet Union ruled with an iron fist behind an Iron Curtain. Then a year later, the solidarity movement took hold in Poland. While I know he couldn’t be here tonight, we’re all grateful in America and around the world for Lech Walesa. [Applause] It reminds me of that phrase from the philosopher Kierkegaard, “Faith sees best in the dark.” And they were dark moments.

Ten years later, the Soviet Union collapsed and Poland and Central and Eastern Europe would soon be free. Nothing about that battle for freedom was simple or easy. It was a long, painful slog. Fought over not days and months but years and decades. But we emerged anew in the great battle for freedom. A battle between democracy and autocracy. Between liberty and repression. Between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force. In this battle, we need to be clear-eyed. This battle will not be won in days or months either. We need to steel ourselves of a long fight ahead….

And now in the perennial struggle for democracy and freedom, Ukraine and its people are in the front lines.

Fighting to save their nation and their brave resistance is part of a larger fight for essential democratic principles that unite all free people. The rule of law, fair and free elections, the freedom to speak, to write and to assemble. The freedom to worship as one chooses. The freedom of the press. These principles are essential in a free society….

Today, Russia has strangled democracy and sought to do so elsewhere, not only in his homeland. Under false claims of ethnic solidarity, there’s invalidated neighboring nations. Putin has the gall to say he’s ‘denazifying’ Ukraine. It’s a lie. It’s just cynical, he knows that and it’s also obscene.

President Zelenskyy was democratically elected. He’s Jewish. His father’s family was wiped out in the Nazi Holocaust. And Putin has the audacity, like all autocrats before him, to believe that might will make right….

The gravity of the threat is why the response of the West has been so swift and so powerful and so unified, unprecedented and overwhelming. Swift and punishing costs are the only thing that are going to get Russia to change its course….

American forces are here to defend NATO allies. Yesterday I met with the troops that are serving alongside our Polish allies to bolster NATO’s front line defenses. The reason we want to make clear is their movement on Ukraine — don’t even think about moving on one single inch of NATO territory. We have sacred obligation. We have a sacred obligation under Article 5 to defend each and every inch of NATO territory with the full force of our collective power….

Rather than breaking Ukrainian resolve, Russia’s brutal tactics have strengthened the resolve. Rather than driving NATO apart, the West is now stronger and more united than it’s ever been….

We must remain unified today and tomorrow and the day after. And for the years and decades to come. It will not be easy. There will be costs. But it is a price we have to pay because the darkness that drives autocracy is ultimately no match for the flame of liberty that lights the souls of free people everywhere….

A dictator bent on rebuilding an empire will never erase a people’s love for liberty. Brutality will never grind down their will to be free. Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, for free people refuse to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness. We will have a different future, a brighter future, rooted in democracy and principle, hope and light. Of decency and dignity and freedom and possibilities.