U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday night in Warsaw robustly defended the Western alliance’s year-long effort to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion and vowed it would not stop.
“One year ago, the world was bracing for the fall of Kyiv,” Biden told the over ten thousand Poles gathered outdoors at Poland’s Royal Castle complex. “Well, I’ve just come from a visit to Kyiv, and I can report Kyiv stands strong. It stands tall. And most important, it stands free.”
Biden promised that support for Ukraine will not waver, and NATO will not be divided. “Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia. Never,” he declared, saying the alliance is “more resolved than ever” in supplying munitions and humanitarian aid to non-NATO member Ukraine to help it defend itself against Russia.
Fresh off his dramatic surprise visit to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv on Monday, Biden assailed Russian President Vladimir Putin for the invasion he launched a year ago this Friday and said the Russian leader could just as easily end the warfare. “The West is not plotting to attack Russia as Putin said today,” Biden declared.
“The democracies of the world have grown stronger” in their pushback against Russian aggression, Biden said, adding “The autocracies of the world have grown weaker.”
Biden used part of his speech in front of an applauding crowd to reiterate what Vice President Kamala Harris announced just days earlier at the Munich Security Conference, that the U.S. has determined Moscow as having committed “crimes against humanity” and “atrocities” against the Ukrainian people.
“They’ve committed depravity, crimes against humanity without shame or compunction,” Biden said.
Specifically, he accused Russia of “targeting civilians with death,” using rape as “a weapon of war,” stealing Ukrainian children by forcibly removing them from their homeland and launching airstrikes against train stations, maternity wards, hospitals, schools and orphanages.
“No one, no one can turn away their eyes from the atrocities Russia is committing against the Ukrainian people. It’s abhorrent,” Biden said.
Russia has denied targeting civilians.
The administration pushed back against Moscow’s claim that Biden received security guarantees from them before his trip, with Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev saying on his Telegram channel on Monday that, “Biden, having previously received security guarantees, finally went to Kiev.”
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told VOA in a briefing to reporters Tuesday that the U.S. did not receive such guarantees. They informed Moscow of the security accompanying Biden to ensure they know “what they would be seeing and what President Biden would be doing.”
“Just to let them know he would be there in this time period and the means by which he was traveling and that he would be out on this timetable, the means by which he was traveling out,” he said. “We conveyed that information. They acknowledged receipt. End of story.”
Earlier Tuesday, Biden began his second trip to Poland in a year by meeting with President Andrzej Duda, where he thanked the Polish leader for his support for Ukraine, calling U.S. – Poland ties a “critical relationship. He underscored Washington’s commitment to the principle of collective defense in Article 5 of the NATO charter and assured Duda that the alliance will respond if Russia expands its war beyond Ukraine and launches an attack on Poland.
“And we reaffirmed our ironclad commitment to NATO’s collective security, including guaranteeing that the command headquarters for our forces in Europe are going to be in Poland, period,” he said.
Biden said the two countries are launching “a new strategic partnership” with plans to build nuclear power plants and bolster Poland’s energy security.
Poland has been an unwavering ally of Ukraine, its neighbor, providing billions of dollars in weapons and humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy’s government, welcoming Ukrainian refugees and providing a critical logistics hub for military assistance for Kyiv.
On Monday Biden announced $460 million in new military aid for Ukraine and said his administration will soon announce another new wave of sanctions against individuals and companies “that are trying to evade or backfill Russia’s war machine.”
The speech in Warsaw delivered by an American president to mark the war anniversary carries significant geopolitical symbolism. During the Cold War, Poland was locked behind the Iron Curtain as a signee of the Warsaw Pact, a military treaty established in 1955 by the Soviet Union and several Eastern European countries to counterbalance NATO, the Western military alliance. The Warsaw pact was dissolved on July 1,1991.
The backdrop of Biden’s speech was Warsaw’s Royal Castle, whose construction began in the 1300s and has witnessed many notable events in Poland’s history, including the drafting of the first constitution of a European state in 1791. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the castle was destroyed by Nazi Germany during World War II and later rebuilt.
Warsaw is an appropriate place to reiterate U.S. commitment to European security, said Ian Lesser, vice president of the German Marshall Fund.
“Poland is very much on the front line and will remain so whatever the course of the war in Ukraine. The country occupies a critical position in allied deterrence and defense and is the key logistical hub for assistance headed to Ukraine,” he told VOA. “The fact that the president’s speech takes place in the Cold War birthplace of the Warsaw Pact will not be lost on observers, not least Russians.”
A few hours before Biden’s speech, President Vladimir Putin delivered remarks to Russia’s Federal Assembly in which he blamed Western countries for provoking conflict and announced that Moscow will stop participating in the new START (Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty), the last major remaining nuclear arms control agreement with the U.S.
Putin also said Western economic sanctions against Russia had not “achieved anything and will not achieve anything.”
Before returning to Washington on Wednesday, Biden will meet with NATO leaders from the so-called Bucharest Nine (B-9), the countries on NATO’s easternmost flank, which include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. These countries feel most at risk from Russia and are pushing for a more robust military response to Moscow.