WARSAW, Poland — President Joe Biden on Saturday sought to reassure Poland that the United States would defend itself against any attack from Russia and he acknowledged that the NATO ally bears the brunt of the crisis in the United States. refugees from the war in neighboring Ukraine.
“Your freedom is ours,” Biden told Polish President Andrzej Duda, echoing one of Poland’s unofficial mottos.
At the Presidential Palace in Warsaw, the two leaders spoke of their mutual respect and common goals to end the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“Although times are very difficult, today Polish-American relations are flourishing,” Duda said.
More than 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the war, and 2 million of them are in Poland. Earlier this week, the United States announced it would take in up to 100,000 refugees, and Biden told Duda he understood that Poland “carried a great responsibility, but that should fall entirely on the NATO”.
Biden called NATO’s “collective defense” deal a “sacred commitment,” and said unity in the Western military alliance was of the utmost importance.
“I am convinced that Vladimir Putin counted on the division of NATO,” Biden said of the Russian president. “But he wasn’t able to do it. We all stayed together.
As the war enters its second month, European security faces its most serious test since World War II. Western leaders have spent the past week consulting on contingency plans should the conflict spread. The invasion shook NATO from any complacency it might have felt and cast a dark shadow over Europe.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said a speech Biden was scheduled to deliver later Saturday in the Polish capital would underscore “the urgency of the challenge ahead” and “what the conflict in Ukraine means for the world, and why it is so important that the free world remain united and resolute in the face of Russian aggression.
Biden’s remarks will cap a four-day trip that included a series of summits in Brussels. In addition to the meeting with Duda, he attended a meeting of U.S. and Ukrainian diplomatic and defense officials to provide an update on Ukraine’s military, diplomatic and humanitarian situation.
Biden also visited a stadium in Warsaw where Ukrainian refugees go to get a Polish ID number that gives them access to social services such as health care and schools. The city of nearly 1.8 million inhabitants grew by 17% in one month.
Biden spoke with refugees and Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski. While Poles have so far welcomed Ukrainians, humanitarian efforts are largely the work of volunteers, and Trzaskowski warned that this is not sustainable and that social services are caving under pressure.
The stadium was built in 2012, when Poland and Ukraine hosted the European Football Championship, and was designed as a symbol of how far the two countries have come since the Cold War. More recently, it served as a field hospital for COVID-19 patients.
Biden previewed his closing speech during Friday’s appearances in Rzeszow.
“You are in the middle of a fight between democracies and oligarchs,” he told members of the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division during a visit to their temporary headquarters. “Will democracy prevail and the values we share, or will autocracies prevail?
During a briefing on the refugee response, Biden said ‘the most important thing we can do from the start’ to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the war ‘is to keep democracies united in our opposition. “.
Biden hailed the humanitarian effort as “of such enormous consequence” given the scale of the crisis, which comes on top of the largest flow of refugees since World War II. He appeared to lament that security concerns “understandably” prevent him from traveling to Ukraine on this trip.
Duda, who appeared with Biden on Friday, said the refugees are “guests.”
“We don’t want to call them refugees. It is our guests, our brothers, our neighbors from Ukraine, who today are in a very difficult situation,” he said.
The United States sent money and supplies to help the refugee effort. This week, Biden announced $1 billion in additional aid in addition to accepting refugees.
The United States and many of its allies have imposed several rounds of economic and other sanctions on Russian individuals, banks and other entities in the hope that the cumulative effect over time will force Putin to withdraw his troops. .
Biden was due to return to Washington after his Warsaw speech.
Associated Press writers Darlene Superville in Washington and Vanessa Gera and Monika Scislowska in Warsaw, Poland contributed to this report.
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