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Biden reassures NATO's eastern flank of protection from Russia

Published February 22,2023

US President Joe Biden once again reassured countries on NATO's eastern flank, all of which used to be under the thumb of the former Soviet Union, that the Western defence alliance would help them in the event of an attack.

"Article Five is a sacred commitment the United States has made. We will defend literally every inch of NATO — every inch of NATO," the US president said at a meeting with several eastern NATO partners in Warsaw on Wednesday.

Article Five is a section in the NATO treaty that calls for the alliance to assist any member under armed attack. Biden's comments come a day after he delivered a major speech in Warsaw saying that Russia would never win its war with Ukraine.

The meeting with Biden was attended by countries of the Bucharest Nine grouping, which include Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the three Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The group was formed on the initiative of Poland and Romania, following the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg campaigned at the meeting to show Russia its limits once and for all.

"We cannot allow Russia to continue to chip away at European security," he said. "We must break the cycle of Russian aggression."

As the first anniversary of Russia's invasion of Ukraine approaches, fear in Eastern Europe has only intensified.

With the exception of Hungary, these countries are among Ukraine's staunchest supporters. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who has been criticized by many in Europe for what they say are anti-democratic policies, continues to maintain close contacts with Moscow. Orbán did not travel to the meeting in Warsaw and was represented there by President Katalin Novák.

NATO and the United States already strengthened the eastern flank after the Russian annexation of Crimea. More forces were deployed there after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Biden stressed that eastern members are on the front line of NATO's common defence.

"And you 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."

Poland's President Andrzej Duda said Russia's aggression against Ukraine had changed the history of this part of Europe. Romanian leader Klaus Johannis said a year ago Russia had tried to destroy European and transatlantic security.

"We must continue delivering on our commitment to Ukraine support Ukraine as for as long as we need to win war, this war, he said.

President Zuzana Čaputová from Slovakia said: "This year has made us stronger and united."

Biden flew back to Washington from Warsaw on Wednesday evening. He had used the approaching anniversary of the start of the war this Friday as an occasion for a visit to the region lasting several days.

On Monday, he first travelled to the Ukrainian capital Kiev under strict security precautions and utmost secrecy. There he assured the Ukrainian head of state Volodymyr Zelensky of continued US support.

On Tuesday, Biden met bilaterally with Duda in Warsaw and gave a speech in the evening in front of the Royal Castle in Warsaw. There, in front of several thousand spectators, he promised that support for Ukraine would not waver.

A few hours earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin had addressed his nation. In it, he repeatedly blamed the West for the war. As a political warning to the West, Putin also declared the last major nuclear arms control agreement, the New START treaty, suspended. This limits the nuclear arsenals of both countries and regulates inspections.