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Biden will combine the battle for Ukraine with the Allied invasion of Normandy


NORMANDY — President Biden will mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy on Thursday, and he will emphasize that the Allied effort to resist Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a direct extension of the struggle for freedom that engulfed Europe during World War II.

Biden was just a toddler when Americans landed on the beaches of Normandy in 1944. Now 81, he is almost certainly the last U.S. president to speak at a Normandy commemoration as Allied forces began to drive Adolf Hitler out of Europe.

Eighty years later, Biden is leading a coalition of European and other nations in a very different war on the continent, but one with remarkably similar principles — countering Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to seize Ukraine.

The president will speak at the American Cemetery in Normandy and directly link the two: defending the rules-based international order.

“Today, in 2024, 80 years later, we see dictators again trying to challenge the order, trying to make inroads into Europe,” said Jake Sullivan, the president’s national security adviser. He told reporters that Biden would make the point that “freedom-loving nations need to unite like we have to oppose this behavior.”

Biden’s remarks at the cemetery, where 9,388 U.S. service members are buried, marked the start of a four-day trip to France that includes a second speech on Friday and a state dinner hosted by French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday. He will return to Europe in a few days for a meeting of Group of Seven leaders in Puglia, Italy.

After speaking at the cemetery, Biden will join Macron and others on a trip to Omaha Beach, the site of one of the fiercest and deadliest fighting between U.S. troops and German-occupying French forces.

U.S. officials said the somber backdrop of the Normandy battle — where Allied forces turned the tide of more than four years of war — was meant to underscore the dangers to Europe and the world if the United States and its allies lose resolve and allow Putin to prevail.

Biden said Congress’s refusal for months to approve funding for Ukraine had frustrated the country’s war efforts and given Russian forces an opportunity to advance along the front lines in northern and eastern Ukraine.

Sullivan said the president will give a speech “that will speak, in the context of today’s war in Europe, about the sacrifices made by those heroes and veterans 80 years ago and our obligation to continue their mission to fight for freedom.”

On Friday, aides said Biden would return to the Normandy beaches for a second speech, this time at Pointe du Hoc, where Army Rangers scaled massive cliffs to secure key military positions held by the Germans.

Officials said the president will use the backdrop to speak more broadly about the dangers of isolationism and the need to protect and nurture democracy. John F. Kirby, a retired Navy admiral and White House national security spokesman, said Biden’s speech will be different from previous speeches on protecting democracy.

“You can point to the real lives that were affected in the Battle of Pointe du Hoc,” he said. “You can point to the blood that was shed in pursuit of this noble goal. You can tell the stories of real men who scaled real cliffs, faced real bullets and real dangers, pursuing a goal greater than themselves.”

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