Biden to US troops: We’re in fight between ‘democracies and oligarchs’

President Joe Biden visits with members of the 82nd Airborne Division

President Biden on Friday visited with U.S. troops on his first stop in Poland, commenting on the importance of their work for maintaining democracy amid the Russian invasion into Ukraine.

“Ten, 15 years from now in terms of our organizational structures, the question is, who’s going to prevail? Are democracies going to prevail and the values we share? Or are autocracies going to? That’s really what’s at stake. So what you’re doing is consequential, really consequential,” Biden said to the 82nd Airborne of the United States Army stationed in Rzeszów.

“We’re in the midst of a fight between democracies and oligarchs,” he said.

The president said that, in the last decade, fewer democracies have been formed than have been lost. 

“The rest of the world looks to us because, you know, we not only lead by the example of our power but by the power of our example. Your generation combines both,” he said.

The U.S. has 10,500 troops in Poland as part of the 100,000 U.S. forces stationed across Europe, according to the White House.

Biden expressed his gratitude to the troops multiple times and noted that all of them stepped up and volunteered to be in the military.

“You represent 1 percent of the American people. None of you have to be here — you all decided to be here for your country,” he said, adding that the remaining 99 percent of Americans, including himself, “owes you.”

Before his remarks, Biden ate a slice of pizza among service members in their cafeteria.

He asked the service members how long they have been in Poland and appeared at one point to ask one for a cup of water after taking a few bites of pizza.

Earlier, the president went to a barbershop, where roughly a dozen U.S. troops were seated on benches, wearing masks and waiting for haircuts.

He sat down in one of the folding chairs behind two servicemen and then walked around the room and greeted all of them.

“You guys must have just gotten your haircut!” Biden said.

He walked up to one of the barber chairs, and one serviceman suggested that Biden should finish the haircut. The president laughed and said that was the last thing the young man would want.

“How you doing, pal?” he said, walking around and shaking hands with service members.

“Hello, Joe Biden, what’s your name? Where are you from?” he said to one service member.

When Air Force One landed at Rzeszów-Jasionka Airport, photographers traveling with the president noticed anti-aircraft missiles at the ready on the grounds of the airport, according to the press pool.

Biden was greeted at the airport by Polish officials and U.S. Ambassador to Poland Mark Brzezinski, the son of Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national security adviser to former President Carter.

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