In view of the Russian war against Ukraine, US President Joe Biden has once again pledged support to the states on NATO's eastern flank in the event of an attack. At a meeting with several eastern NATO partners in the Polish capital of Warsaw on Wednesday, Biden said - shortly before the first anniversary of the start of the war: "Article Five is a sacred commitment that the United States has made. We will defend literally every inch of NATO ." At the meeting, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg advocated showing Russia its limits once and for all.
Article Five of the NATO founding treaty stipulates that the alliance partners undertake to provide assistance in the event of an armed attack against one or more of them.
The countries of the "Bucharest 9" format took part in the meeting with Biden in Warsaw. These include Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and the three Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The group was founded on the initiative of Poland and Romania after the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea in 2014.
Hungary plays a special role
With Russia's large-scale invasion of Ukraine almost exactly a year ago, the fears of the countries of Central Eastern Europe only increased. You are among the most determined supporters of Ukraine. An exception is Hungary, which continues to maintain close contacts with Moscow under Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Orban did not travel to the meeting in Warsaw - Hungary was represented there by President Katalin Novak.
NATO and the USA had already strengthened the eastern flank after the Russian annexation of Crimea. In view of the war of aggression against Ukraine, further forces were transferred to the region.
Biden stressed that as the eastern flank of the military alliance, the eastern countries are the front line of common defense. "You know better than anyone what is at stake in this conflict - not just for Ukraine, but for the freedom of democracies across Europe and the world."
Stoltenberg warned: "We must not allow Russia to continue to undermine European security." One must "break the cycle of Russian aggression" and ensure "that history does not repeat itself". For many years, Russia has shown an aggressive behavior pattern. With regard to the Ukraine war, the NATO Secretary General said it was not clear when it would end. A year after the Russian invasion began, there are no signs that President Vladimir Putin is preparing for peace. Therefore, support for Ukraine must be continued and further strengthened. "We have to give Ukraine what it needs."
Many questions unanswered
Stoltenberg did not explain how, in his view, NATO should break the cycle of Russian aggression in Europe. It would be conceivable to extend the alliance's eastern flank to the Russian border and then arm it so that an attack would be tantamount to a suicide squad. Alternatively, by providing even more support for Ukraine, NATO could ensure that Russia emerges from the current war so weak that it will no longer be able to stir up new conflicts in the foreseeable future.
Poland's President Andrzej Duda said Russia's aggression against Ukraine changed the history of that part of Europe. Romanian head of state Klaus Johannis said a year ago Russia tried to destroy European and transatlantic security. "We must stand firm and honor our commitments to support Ukraine for as long as it takes to win this war," he said. President Zuzana Caputova of Slovakia said: "This year has made us stronger and united."
In the final declaration, the states promised to strengthen their defenses. They condemned the Russian aggression and everyone who supports it - Belarus, for example. "Russia made a serious miscalculation when it invaded Ukraine and undermined the rules-based international order," it said.
The US President flew back to the United States from Warsaw on Wednesday evening. He took the approaching anniversary of the beginning of the war this Friday as an opportunity to visit the region for several days. On Monday he first traveled to the Ukrainian capital Kiev under strict security precautions and the greatest secrecy. There he assured the Ukrainian head of state Volodymyr Zelenskyj the continued support of the USA.
Biden then met bilaterally with Duda in Warsaw on Tuesday and gave a speech in front of the Royal Castle in Warsaw in the evening. There he promised in front of several thousand spectators that support for Ukraine would not waver. He invoked the strength of NATO and warned Russia against an attack on NATO.
A few hours earlier, Putin addressed his nation in a speech. In it he repeatedly blamed the West for the war. As a political warning to the West, he also suspended the last major nuclear arms control agreement, the "New Start" treaty with the United States. This limits the nuclear arsenals of both countries and regulates inspections.
Biden criticized Putin's decision to suspend the agreement on Wednesday on the sidelines of the meeting in Warsaw and, according to a reporter who was present, spoke of a "big mistake".