President Biden on Wednesday was set to meet with members of NATO’s eastern flank nations before wrapping his four-day visit to Poland and Ukraine.
In Warsaw Wednesday, Biden was scheduled to hold talks with members of the so-called Bucharest Nine, the nations that make up the easternmost part of NATO’s 30-nation alliance. It came together in response to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.
The Bucharest Nine countries include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Their anxieties have reportedly remained heightened as the war in Ukraine is dragging into another year. Friday will mark one year since Russia’s February 24 invasion of its sovereign neighbor, and many of the eastern NATO nations worry they could be next on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion list if he’s successful in Ukraine.
During his speech Tuesday in Warsaw, Biden said that not only Ukraine, but “the whole world faced a test for the ages”, adding, “Europe was being tested. America was being tested. NATO was being tested. All democracies were being tested.”
Also on Tuesday in Warsaw, Biden met with the President of Moldova, Maia Sandu, who last week claimed Moscow was behind a plot to overthrow her country’s government using external saboteurs to attack government buildings, though Russia denied the charge.
Russian officials have for months discussed escalating their Ukrainian offensive into Transnistria, a breakaway republic recognized internationally as part of Moldova.
Situated on Ukraine’s southwestern border, Moldova wants to join the European Union. The EU has already been looking for ways to ramp up military support to Moldova, which has EU Civil Protection while that 27-nation coalition considers its petition for full membership.
Biden in his Warsaw speech endorsed Moldova’s bid to join the EU.
One day before his visit to Poland, Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv, Ukraine, where he met with President Volodymyr Zelensky and other officials, and gave a speech affirming U.S. support for Ukraine’s defense of its sovereignty.
The White House has praised several of NATO’s eastern flank countries, including Lithuania and Romania, over the last year for stepping up efforts to back Ukraine with weapons and economic aid and taking in refugees.
But Biden has given particular attention to NATO and EU member Poland for its efforts. The country is currently home to 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees and has to date committed a total of $3.8 billion in combined military and economic assistance to Kyiv.
“The truth of the matter is, the United States needs Poland and NATO as much as NATO needs the United States,” Biden said during talks with Polish President Andrzej Duda.