President Joe Biden has criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin for suspending his country’s participation in the last remaining US-Russia nuclear arms control treaty. Biden condemned the Russian decision to pull back from the treaty, known as New START, as a “big mistake.”
This move is expected to have an immediate impact on US visibility into Russian nuclear activities. However, the pact was already on life support following Moscow’s cancellation late last year of talks that had been intended to salvage an agreement that both sides have accused the other of violating.
Biden was in Poland to reassure eastern flank NATO allies that the US will remain by their sides amid the grinding Russian invasion of Ukraine. In his first comments since Putin’s announcement, the US President pledged that NATO’s mutual-defense pact is “sacred” and that “we will defend literally every inch of NATO.”
The President also met with the Bucharest Nine, a collection of nations in the most eastern parts of the NATO alliance that came together in response to Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. The alliance includes Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.
The Bucharest Nine countries’ anxieties have remained heightened, with many worried that Putin could move to take military action against them next if he is successful in Ukraine. Biden emphasized that they are “the frontlines of our collective defense” and “know better than anyone what’s at stake in this conflict – not just for Ukraine but for the freedom of democracies throughout Europe and around the world.”
Biden also made a surprise visit to Kyiv to show his support for Ukraine. His speech was part affirmation of Europe’s role in helping Ukraine repel Russia’s ongoing invasion and part sharply worded warning to Putin that the US won’t abide Moscow defeating Ukraine.
In addition to Ukraine, Moldova, a former Soviet republic of about 2.6 million people, has sought to forge closer ties with its Western partners since Russia invaded Ukraine nearly a year ago. Last week, Moldovan President Maia Sandu claimed Moscow was behind a plot to overthrow her country’s government using external saboteurs. Biden endorsed Moldova’s bid to join the EU and pledged to stand with the freedom-loving people of Moldova.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who was attending the meeting, said, “We cannot allow Russia to continue to chip away at European security. We must break the cycle of Russian aggression.” He added, “We don’t know when the war will end, but when it does, we need to ensure that history does not repeat itself.”
The US President praised several eastern flank countries, including Lithuania, Poland, and Romania, over the last year for stepping up efforts to back Ukraine with weapons and economic aid and taking in refugees. Poland, in particular, is hosting about 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees and has committed $3.8 billion in military and economic assistance to Kyiv. Biden said during talks with Polish President Andrzej Duda, “The United States needs Poland and NATO as much as NATO needs the United States.”
In conclusion, President Biden’s visit to Poland and Ukraine was aimed at reassuring eastern flank NATO allies and showing support for Ukraine and Moldova amid Russian aggression. He condemned Russia’s decision to pull back from the New START treaty and pledged that NATO’s mutual-defense pact is “sacred” and that “we will defend literally every inch of NATO.” He also emphasized the need to break the cycle of Russian aggression and ensure that history does not repeat itself.