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Biden, world leaders and veterans mark D-Day’s 80th anniversary in France

COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France — President Biden will join world leaders in Normandy on Thursday to commemorate the 80th anniversary of D-Day, a somber setting where he plans to draw a link between the historic fight to defeat the Nazis and the modern-day battles against authoritarianism.

While Biden’s speech Thursday will be directed at a global audience — including to more than two dozen heads of state and government who will be in attendance — it comes against the backdrop of a fierce domestic political battle between the president and his predecessor, Donald Trump, who addressed the same event five years ago.

During his speech on the 75th anniversary of D-Day, Trump hailed the veterans who stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944 but did not offer similar praise for the global alliances that emerged out of World War II. While Biden is not likely to name Trump during his remarks, he plans to offer an unequivocal endorsement of the global order that the Republican front-runner has trashed, according to senior administration officials, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the president’s remarks.

Such a message is particularly relevant given the war in Ukraine, said national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who pointed out that the NATO alliance has expanded during Biden’s term.

“Today, in 2024, 80 years later, we see dictators once again attempting to challenge the order, attempting to march in Europe,” he told reporters Wednesday, adding that “freedom-loving nations need to rally to stand against that as we have.”

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The president, who arrived in Paris on Wednesday morning and spent the day behind closed doors, plans to start his visit to Normandy by greeting World War II veterans who participated in the D-Day landings, including some who are more than 100 years old.

He will then give remarks at the D-Day Anniversary Commemoration Ceremony, where he plans to compare World War II’s fight against tyranny to the modern-day effort to stop Russian President Vladimir Putin’s assault on Ukraine.

Later Thursday, Biden will join first lady Jill Biden for a wreath-laying at the Normandy American Cemetery. Finally, the Bidens will attend the International Ceremony at Omaha Beach, where several top dignitaries — including French President Emmanuel Macron — are also expected to pay tribute to the troops who helped carry out the largest naval, air and land assault ever. Despite high casualties, the operation helped establish the U.S. military as the world’s premier fighting force and deepened global alliances that have endured for eight decades.

The celebration of that military triumph comes against the backdrop of the plodding war in Ukraine, where Russia has been making gains in recent months after more than two years of fighting. The war’s heavy cost has put pressure on politicians in the United States and Europe and at times strained relations between Washington and its European counterparts.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to attend the events in Normandy, which will give him an opportunity to make his case for additional military support for Kyiv ahead of next week’s Group of Seven summit in Italy.

Biden has pointed to his administration’s record of building alliances amid the war in Ukraine as a top selling point for his reelection as he seeks to draw a sharp contrast with Trump. In an interview with Time magazine, Biden said Trump “wanted to just abandon” U.S. alliances and suggested the former president would ultimately pull the country out of NATO if he returns to the White House.

“The decisions we make in the last couple of years, in the next four years, are going to determine the future of Europe for a long time to come,” Biden said in the May 28 interview. “And so that’s why we cannot let NATO fail, we have to build that both politically and economically.”

Biden plans to return to Normandy on Friday to give remarks directed at the American people. That speech, the White House said, will focus on “the importance of defending freedom and democracy.”

Olorunnipa reported from Paris.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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