Biden shores up Western allies as Putin digs in

A year of war: Ukraine has defied all odds 

Warsaw, Poland: President Joe Biden closed out his wartime visit to Europe, working to shore up partnerships with allies on NATO’s perilous eastern flank — even as Russia’s Vladimir Putin was drawing closer to China for help as his invasion of Ukraine neared the one-year mark.

Biden’s meeting with leaders of the Bucharest Nine nations in Warsaw came at the conclusion of a whirlwind, four-day visit to Ukraine and Poland meant to reassure allies that U.S. support in fending off Russia isn’t at risk of waning.

Biden met Wednesday with leaders of the Bucharest Nine, the nations in the easternmost parts of the NATO alliance that came together in response to Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine. They include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

“You’re the frontlines of our collective defense,” Biden told them. “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.”

These countries have worried that Putin could move to take military action against them next if he’s successful in Ukraine. Biden responded to that anxiety by pledging that NATO’s mutual defense pact is “sacred” and that “we will defend literally every inch of NATO.”

In dramatic counterpoint, Putin Wednesday played host in Moscow to Wang Yi, the Chinese Communist Party’s most senior foreign policy official, as U.S. intelligence warned that Beijing is considering supplying arms and ammunition to the worn-down Russian military.

However, Biden’s trip provided yet another moment of counter-programming when he delivered a ringing speech Tuesday on Western unity in Warsaw, a day after he swept into Kyiv unannounced for a visit with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. As Biden spoke in Poland, Putin announced that Russia was suspending its participation in the last remaining U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control treaty.

Biden called that departure “a big mistake.” However, the pact — known as New START — was already on life support following Moscow’s cancellation late last year of talks that had been intended to salvage an agreement that each side had accused the other of violating.

It was unclear how the U.S. and its allies aimed to do that, other than by continuing to arm Ukraine’s military with the Western and aging Soviet arms that have allowed it to retake about half of the territory it lost in the opening days of the war.

Biden returned to Washington late Wednesday night.

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