Biden Draws Parallels Between Ukraine’s Fight And World War II In D-Day Anniversary Address

As the 80th anniversary of D-Day is commemorated in France, Biden promised continued U.S. and NATO support for Ukraine.

byOliver Parken|
US President Joe Biden delivers a speech during the US ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the World War II "D-Day" Allied landings in Normandy, at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, which overlooks Omaha Beach in northwestern France, on June 6, 2024. The D-Day ceremonies on June 6 this year mark the 80th anniversary since the launch of 'Operation Overlord', a vast military operation by Allied forces in Normandy, which turned the tide of World War II, eventually leading to the liberation of occupied France and the end of the war against Nazi Germany. (Photo by Daniel Cole / POOL / AFP)
Photo by Daniel Cole / POOL / AFP
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President Joe Biden drew parallels between the Allied fight against Nazism during World War II, and present efforts to thwart Russia's all-out war against Ukraine, during a speech today marking D-Day's 80th anniversary. During his remarks, the President explicitly underscored both the U.S. and NATO's commitment to supporting Ukraine's fight for freedom, which comes amid continued concerns over the speed at which Western aid is arriving in the country.

Biden's speech was given in front of World War II veterans and numerous senior political figures, including French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, at the U.S. cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy. The cemetery contains the graves of 9,388 U.S. war dead — the majority of whom were killed during the D-Day landings and ensuing operations.

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The President was also among 20 world leaders, including Ukrainian President Zelensky, who later came together at a D-Day ceremony at Omaha Beach, where U.S. forces suffered major losses in order to gain a foothold in France 80 years ago.

"The men who fought here became heroes not because they were the strongest or toughest or were fiercest — although they were — but because they were given an audacious mission knowing — every one of them knew the probability of dying was real, but they did it anyway," Biden said during his speech at the U.S. cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer. "They knew, beyond any doubt, there are things that are worth fighting and dying for."

The D-Day landings, also known as the Normandy landings, of June 6, 1944, brought together the land, air, and sea forces of the major Allied countries to invade Nazi-occupied Europe. Troops came ashore at across five code-named beaches — Utah, Omaha, Gold, Juno, and Sword — along a 50-mile stretch of French coastline. It remains the largest amphibious invasion in military history.

An LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of Company A, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division (the Big Red One) wading onto the Fox Green section of Omaha Beach (Calvados, Basse-Normandie, France) on the morning of June 6, 1944. Chief Photographer's Mate (CPHoM) Robert F. Sargent 

"We know the dark forces that these heroes fought against 80 years ago," Biden noted. "They never fade. Aggression and greed, the desire to dominate and control, to change borders by force — these are perennial. And the struggle between a dictatorship and freedom is unending. Here, in Europe, we see one stark example. Ukraine has been invaded by a tyrant bent on domination."

"Make no mistake, the autocrats of the world are watching closely to see what happens in Ukraine, to see if we let this illegal aggression go unchecked... To surrender to bullies, to bow down to dictators is simply unthinkable. Were we to do that, it means we’d be forgetting what happened here on these hallowed beaches."

Much like the Allied fight against Nazism, Biden noted that Ukraine's resistance to Russian aggression centers on "stand[ing] for freedom" and "defend[ing] democracy." While the U.S. is not actively engaged in the conflict militarily, Biden's speech reaffirmed the importance of its support for Ukraine wherever possible outside of boots on the ground. Notably, this comes as President Zelensky has openly criticized the speed at which U.S. aid has been arriving in Ukraine recently.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers a speech, as U.S. WWII veterans look on during the U.S. ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the World War II "D-Day" Allied landings in Normandy, at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, which overlooks Omaha Beach in northwestern France, on June 6, 2024. Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP

Biden's pledge for continued allied support for Ukraine wasn't restricted to America. Echoing Allied unity during World War II, he also referenced the support of the wider NATO alliance, which was created in 1949 to provide collective European security against the then-Soviet Union. NATO has also been the primary source of military aid for Ukraine, and NATO members have also provided key training for Ukrainian military personnel.

"Today, NATO stands at 32 countries strong. And NATO is more united than ever and even more prepared to keep the peace, deter aggression, defend freedom all around the world," he stated. "The United States and NATO [are] standing strong with Ukraine. We will not walk away... because if we do, Ukraine will be subjugated. And it will not end there. Ukraine’s neighbors will be threatened. All of Europe will be threatened."

France's President Emmanuel Macron (2nd L) and his wife Brigitte Macron (L), and U.S. First Lady Jill Biden (C) applaud as U.S. President Joe Biden prepares to deliver a speech during the US ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the World War II "D-Day" Allied landings in Normandy, at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, which overlooks Omaha Beach in northwestern France, on June 6, 2024. Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP

While Ukraine's joining NATO in the near term, even after the conclusion of the present war, has recently been questioned by President Biden as a necessary precursor to peace thereafter, the alliance has gained several new members since Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022. In 2023, Finland joined NATO, and earlier this year Sweden was added to the list of NATO member states.

Irrespective of his stance on Ukraine joining NATO, Biden was firm on the need to address the present-day threats being faced by that country in light of the lessons from history during the speech.

"In their generation, in their hour of trial, the Allied forces of D-Day did their duty. Now the question for us is: In our hour of trial, will we do ours?"

"We’re living in a time when democracy is more at risk across the world than at any point since the end of World War Two — since these beaches were stormed in 1944. Now, we have to ask ourselves: Will we stand against tyranny, against evil, against crushing brutality of the iron fist? Will we stand for freedom? Will we defend democracy? Will we stand together? My answer is yes. And it only can be yes."

Contact the author: oliver@thewarzone.com

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