On his penultimate day in Europe, President Joe Biden sought to reassure Poland that the US would defend it against any Russian strikes, while also acknowledging that the NATO member was bearing the brunt of the refugee problem resulting from the conflict in neighboring Ukraine.
Your freedom is ours,” Biden told Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda.
The two presidents spoke of their mutual respect and shared aspirations to cease Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the Presidential Palace in Warsaw.
“Although times are very difficult, today Polish-American relations are flourishing,” Duda said.
Since the crisis began, more than 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine, with 2 million of them settling in Poland. The United States said earlier this week that it would accept up to 100,000 refugees, and Biden told Duda that he recognized Poland was “taking on a great duty “taking on a big responsibility, but it should be all of NATO’s responsibility.”
Biden called NATO’s “collective defense” accord a “sacred commitment” and stressed the need for the Western military alliance’s unity.
“I’m confident that Vladimir Putin was counting on dividing NATO,” Biden said about the Russian president. “But he hasn’t been able to do it. We’ve all stayed together.”
With the war now in its second month, European security is being put to the test for the first time since WWII. Western policymakers have spent the last week discussing contingency measures in the event that the confrontation escalates. NATO’s complacency has been disturbed by the invasion, which has cast a gloomy shadow over Europe.
Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, said Biden would outline the “urgency of the challenge that lies ahead” and “what the conflict in Ukraine means for the world, and why it is so important that the free world stay in unity and resolve in the face of Russian aggression.”
Biden’s statements will come at the end of a four-day journey that includes many summits in Brussels. He also attended a meeting of American and Ukrainian diplomatic and defense officials for an update on Ukraine’s military, diplomatic, and humanitarian situation, in addition to his meeting with Duda.
A stop at a stadium is also on the agenda, where Ukrainian migrants can get a Polish identification number that allows them to access social services including health care and schools.
When Poland and Ukraine hosted the European soccer tournament in 2012, the stadium was erected as a symbol of how far the two countries had gone since the Cold War. It was used as a field hospital for COVID-19 patients more recently.
During appearances in Rzeszow on Friday, Biden gave a sneak peek at his concluding remarks.
“You’re in the midst of a fight between democracies and oligarchs,” he told members of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division during a visit to their temporary headquarters. “Is democracy going to prevail and the values we share, or are autocracies going to prevail?”
During a briefing on the refugee response, Biden stated that “keeping the democracies together in our opposition” is “the single most essential thing that we can do from the beginning” to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war.
Given the enormity of the crisis, which includes the greatest flood of migrants since World War II, Biden lauded the humanitarian effort as being of “such enormous relevance.” He appeared to bemoan the fact that “understandably” security concerns will prevent him from visiting Ukraine during this trip.
The refugees are “guests,” according to Duda, who appeared with Biden on Friday.
“We do not want to call them refugees. They are our guests, our brothers, our neighbors from Ukraine, who today are in a very difficult situation,” he said.
The United States has contributed money and supplies to the refugee relief effort. In addition to accepting migrants, Biden offered $1 billion in additional aid this week.
Multiple rounds of economic and other sanctions have been imposed on Russian individuals, banks, and other institutions by the US and many of its allies in the hopes that the cumulative effect will force Putin to remove his troops over time.
After his speech in Warsaw, Biden was due to return to Washington.