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Biden warns democracy ‘at risk’ as leaders mark D-Day

Biden says democracy 'more at risk' than any time since WWII
Source: Video Screenshot

US President Joe Biden on Thursday warned on the 80th anniversary of D-Day that democracy around the world was at risk, as leaders marked the 1944 landings in occupied France that helped defeat Nazi Germany in World War II.

Biden, Britain’s King Charles III, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron paid tribute to the tens of thousands of Allied troops who stormed the beaches of Normandy in northern France on June 6, 1944.

This year’s ceremony came against the background of the current war in Ukraine, which is fighting off Russia’s invasion. The commemorations provided a hugely symbolic backdrop to talks on how Kyiv can regain ground after recent Russian advances.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky attended an international ceremony with the other leaders.

Biden said D-Day showed the need for international alliances.

He vowed never to abandon Ukraine in its fight against Russia, a pointed swipe at his election rival ex-president Donald Trump who has publicly questioned the importance of organisations such as NATO.

“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 II,” Biden said.

“Isolationism was not the answer 80 years ago and is not the answer today,” he said.

“Real alliances make us stronger — a lesson that I pray we Americans never forget.”


– ‘Will not end there’ –


Biden also vowed that, under his leadership, the United States “will not walk away” from Ukraine “because if we do, Ukraine will be subjugated and it will not end there.

“Ukraine’s neighbours will be threatened, all of Europe will be threatened,” he added, describing Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “tyrant bent on domination”.

To surrender to bullies or “bow down to dictators” is “simply unthinkable”, he said.

His message that D-Day provided lessons for the present was echoed by Macron. He spoke at a ceremony attended by Zelensky overlooking Omaha beach, where US troops came ashore in 1944.

“Thank you to the Ukrainian people for their bravery,” Macron said as guests rose in a standing ovation to acknowledge Zelensky and French jets roared above in a fly-past.

“We are here and we will not weaken,” he added.

Kyiv has been pushing Europe to increase its military support, with Russia in recent months gaining the upper hand on the battlefield and concerns growing over what a Trump presidency could mean for the conflict.

“Allies defended Europe’s freedom then, and Ukrainians do so now,” Zelensky, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter.

“Unity prevailed then, and true unity can prevail today.”

The Ukrainian leader is due to address the French parliament and hold talks in Paris with Macron on Friday.


– ‘Oppose tyranny’ –


Canada’s Trudeau said democracy was “threatened by aggressors who want to redraw borders”.

“Our way of life did not happen by accident,” he said at the Canadian ceremony.

The biggest guests of honour were some 180 surviving veterans in their late 90s or over 100, some in wheelchairs and huddled in blankets as they gazed over the shores.

Macron awarded a dozen of them France’s highest honour, the Legion d’Honneur.

Zelensky knelt down to embrace one veteran in his wheelchair. “My hero!” he told the Ukrainian president. “No, you are our hero,” Zelensky replied.

King Charles III at the British memorial at Ver-sur-Mer that overlooks Gold beach, one of the landing sites for British troops, said: “Our gratitude is unfailing and our admiration eternal.”

“Free nations must stand together to oppose tyranny,” he said. “Let us pray such sacrifice need never be made again.”


– ‘Can never diminish’ –


King Charles, noting the dwindling numbers of veterans from the conflict, said: “Our obligation to remember them, what they stood for and what they achieved for us all can never diminish.”

Two veterans were unable to make it to France.

William Cameron, a 100-year-old Canadian veteran, had packed his bags weeks in advance but died just before he was to return to France, while 102-year-old Robert Persichitti from the United States died on a ship en route to the ceremony.

Film director Steven Spielberg and actor Tom Hanks also attended the ceremonies, present in acknowledgement of their classic 1998 film “Saving Private Ryan”, set just after the Normandy landings.

For the British ceremony, veteran crooner Tom Jones and popular folk singer and actor Johnny Flynn provided music.

No Russian official has been invited, underlining Moscow’s current pariah status despite the decisive Soviet contribution to defeating Nazism in World War II.

During a meeting with foreign news outlets in Saint Petersburg late Wednesday, Putin shrugged off the lack of an invitation for Russia, saying “let them celebrate without us”.



About the author


Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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