Jill Biden arrives in Romania on trip to bolster US allies

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MIHAIL KOGALNICEANU AIR BASE, Romania — First Lady Jill Biden arrived here on Friday for the first leg of her four-day trip to Eastern Europe, where she will meet with national leaders, U.S. troops and fled refugees Ukraine since Russia invaded more than two months ago.

The trip marks her most high-profile diplomatic engagement since her husband became president, visiting a region on the fringes of Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine. During her trip, she will meet with the Slovak president as well as Romanian and Slovak educators and Ukrainian refugees, seeking to reassure them of continued U.S. support for those facing or at risk of aggression from Russia.

Biden began her visit on Friday with a stop at the Romanian air base, where she greeted US and NATO military officials and helped US military commanders serve macaroni, cheese and potatoes. to the American troops stationed here.

A US service member introduced himself to the first lady as being from Pennsylvania, where Biden was raised, adding that he attended the University of Delaware. “I too am a blue hen! Biden said, referring to the mascot of the university from which she received her doctorate. “My husband too.”

Jill Biden to meet Ukrainian refugees on Mother’s Day

Mihail Kogalniceanu Air Base, a Romanian facility that also hosts US and NATO troops, has almost tripled in size, to about 2,700 people, since Russia invaded Ukraine – and the first lady arrived with some reinforcements in hand. Her office had learned that the base was running out of ketchup, so staffers brought about five gallons on the plane, and Biden herself walked into the dining hall with two bottles of ketchup.

After cutting a cake decorated with the American flag, which was made to commemorate the first lady’s visit to the base, Biden joined Master Sgt. Sharon Rogers to record a video of the two of them reading a book to Rogers’ young son, Nathan. They took turns reading “Night Catch”, a children’s book.

Biden has facilitated reading through Joining Forces, his initiative to support military families, and United Through Reading, which connects military families with deployed service members through video recordings and virtual book readings.

Previous first ladies made regular visits abroad to support US troops stationed overseas, but Jill Biden’s trip to the edge of a war zone comes at a crucial moment in US foreign policy as the he Biden administration plays a central role in the military and humanitarian conflict. answer.

The United States has sent billions of dollars in military assistance and humanitarian aid, and the president last week asked Congress for an additional $33 billion to support Ukraine against Russia, which has launched the largest ground warfare in Europe since World War II.

Millions of refugees fled Ukraine as the Russian military waged a brutal war that Biden declared genocide. The US government has not officially adopted the term, which requires a thorough review process, but US officials are assisting the international community with ongoing war crimes investigations.

This is Jill Biden’s second solo trip abroad since taking office. Last summer, she led the American delegation to the Tokyo Olympics for the opening ceremonies.

“It’s so important to the president and to me that the people of Ukraine know we’re on their side,” Biden told reporters in Washington before boarding his flight to Europe.

Blinken and Austin visit Ukraine

On Saturday, the first lady will travel to the US Embassy in Bucharest for a humanitarian briefing from UN agencies, humanitarian groups and the Romanian government. She will then meet Romania’s first lady, Carmen Iohannis, who, like Jill Biden, continues to teach English while her husband is head of state.

The First Lady will also visit a public school in Bucharest hosting Ukrainian refugee students and attend a listening session with the Romanian Minister of Education.

She will travel to Kosice, Slovakia on Sunday to celebrate Mother’s Day with mothers and children before visiting the Slovak-Ukrainian border crossing at Vysne Nemecke. Biden will visit refugee processing centers and meet with aid workers and refugees. She will also visit a Greek Catholic chapel that serves refugees, volunteers and first responders.

She will conclude her trip on Monday at the Presidential Palace in Bratislava, where she will meet Slovak President Zuzana Caputova.

Ashley Biden, the president and first lady’s daughter, was originally supposed to join her mother on the trip, but she dropped out after being told of close contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus. She tested negative, but a White House doctor advised her not to travel with the first lady, according to a White House spokesperson.

Ashley Biden attended the White House Correspondents’ Dinner last weekend and several accompanying parties. A number of White House officials and reporters have contracted the virus since those gatherings.

Jill Biden is joined for the Romanian leg of the trip by Mark Gitenstein, the ambassador to the European Union and a longtime Biden aide and friend. Gitenstein served as US Ambassador to Romania during the Obama administration.

Biden will travel closer to the conflict than her husband did during his trip to Europe in March, when he visited Rzeszow, Poland, around 60 years old. kilometers from the Ukrainian border. But in recent weeks, a number of senior US officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), have traveled to Kyiv to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr. Zelensky.

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