U.S. President Joe Biden addressed leaders of the NATO military alliance in Poland on Feb. 22, pledging continued support for their security after Russia suspended a major nuclear arms control treaty. He spoke to the “Bucharest Nine,” members who joined NATO after decades of the Soviet Union’s communist domination.
“As NATO’s eastern flank, you are the frontline of our collective defense,” Biden said during the speech in Warsaw. “You know better than anyone what is at stake in this conflict. Not just for Ukraine, but for the freedom of democracies throughout Europe and around the world.”
Biden’s address came in response to several threats from Russia toward both Ukraine and the democracies of the West. Russian leader Vladimir Putin had previously lambasted the West, made false claims about biological weapons in Ukraine, and blamed Western democracies for creating Nazism. Biden dismissed these claims as patently false, noting that the decision to conquer Ukraine was Putin’s choice alone.
The dueling narratives between the democratic West and authoritarian Russia come just two days before the one-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, and after Putin announced that Russia would be suspending its participation in the landmark New START agreement. This agreement limited how many nuclear warheads the United States and Russia can produce or deploy.
Biden reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to NATO’s security, stressing that autocrats like Putin must be opposed at all costs. He also plans to discuss additional support for Ukraine before he returns to Washington. The Kremlin claims that NATO, which could soon expand to include Sweden and Finland, is an existential threat to Russia.
For his part, Biden described Russia’s attempted conquest and Ukraine’s resistance as a test on the democratic societies of the world. He believes that the West will emerge stronger from this test.
“When Russia invaded, it wasn’t just Ukraine being tested, the whole world faced a test for the ages,” Biden said. “Europe was being tested. America was being tested. NATO was being tested. All democracies are being tested. The questions we faced were as simple as they were profound. Would we respond or would we look the other way? Would we be strong or would we be weak? Would all of our allies be united or divided? One year later, we know the answer: We did respond. We would be strong. We would be united. And the world would not look the other way.”
Reuters contributed to this report.