By Aamer Madhani, Zeke Miller and Chris Megerian | Associated Press
WARSAW, Poland — President Joe Biden, who returned to the Polish castle where he spoke on Tuesday shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, said the war had hardened Western determination to defend democracy around the world.
He warned that “difficult and bitter days are coming” but promised that the United States and its allies “will support Ukraine” as the war enters its second year.
“The democracies of the world will guard freedom today, tomorrow and forever,” he said at the Royal Castle, a historic monument in Warsaw, before a cheering crowd of Polish citizens and Ukrainian refugees.
Biden’s speech came a day after his bold, unannounced trip to Kiev, where he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“Kyiv is strong,” Biden declared. “Kyiv stands proud.”
Before his speech, Biden met with Polish President Andrzej Duda as he began a series of consultations with allies to prepare for an even more complicated stage of the Russian invasion.
“We must have security in Europe,” Biden said at the presidential palace in Warsaw. “It’s so simple, so simple, so consistent.”
He described NATO as “perhaps the most consistent alliance in history”, and he said it is “stronger than ever”, despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hopes that it would break because of the war in Ukraine.
Earlier on Tuesday, Putin announced that Moscow would suspend its participation in the last remaining nuclear arms control pact with the United States.
The so-called New START treaty limits the number of long-range nuclear warheads they can deploy and restricts the use of missiles that can carry nuclear weapons.
Biden harassed Putin during the speech, but did not mention the START suspension.
During his meeting with Biden, Duda praised the US president’s unannounced visit to Kiev as “spectacular”, saying it “boosted the morale of Ukraine’s defenders”.
He said the visit was “a sign that the free world, and its greatest leader, the President of the United States, stands with them.”
On Wednesday, Biden plans to meet again with Duda, along with other leaders of the Bucharest Nine, a group of the easternmost members of NATO’s military alliance.
The conflict in Ukraine – the most significant war in Europe since World War II – has already killed tens of thousands of people, destroyed Ukraine’s infrastructure system and damaged the global economy.
While Biden wants to use his whirlwind trip to Europe as a moment of affirmation for Ukraine and its allies, the White House has also stressed that there is no clear endgame to the war any time soon and that the situation on the ground is getting worse. complex.
The government revealed on Sunday it has new intelligence suggesting China, which has remained on the sidelines of the conflict, is now considering sending lethal aid to Moscow. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it could become a “serious problem” if Beijing perseveres.
Biden and Zelenskyy discussed the capabilities Ukraine needs “to succeed on the battlefield” in the coming months, Sullivan said. Zelenskyy has been pressuring US and European allies to provide fighter jets and long-range missile systems known as ATACMS – which Biden has so far refused to provide. Sullivan declined to comment when asked if there was any movement during the leaders’ conversation.
With the end of the war still in sight, the anniversary is a critical time for Biden to try to strengthen European unity and reiterate that Putin’s invasion was a frontal assault on the post-World War II international order. The White House hopes the president’s visit to Kiev and Warsaw will strengthen American and global resolve.
In the US, a poll published last week by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that support for supplying arms and direct economic aid to Ukraine is declining. And earlier this month, 11 House Republicans introduced what they called the “Ukrainian fatigue” resolution, urging Biden to end military and financial aid to Ukraine while pushing Ukraine and Russia to reach a peace deal.
Biden rejected the idea of dwindling US support during his Kiev visit.
“For all the disagreement we have in our Congress on some issues, there is significant agreement on support for Ukraine,” Biden said in Kyiv. He described the conflict as “over freedom of democracy in general”.
Before the trip, the White House highlighted Poland’s efforts to help Ukraine. More than 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees have settled in Poland since the war began, and millions more have crossed Poland on their way to other countries. Poland has also provided Ukraine with $3.8 billion in military and humanitarian aid, the White House said.
The Biden administration announced last summer that it would establish a permanent US garrison in Poland, giving it a lasting US foothold on NATO’s eastern flank.
“The truth is that the United States needs Poland and NATO just as much as NATO needs the United States,” Biden told Duda on Tuesday.
Miller and Megerian reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Evan Vucci in Kiev, and Kevin Freking in Washington contributed to this report.