WARSAW, Poland — President Joe Biden on Saturday sought to reassure Poland that the United States would defend against any attacks by Russia and he acknowledged that the NATO ally bore the burden of the refugee crisis from the war in neighboring Ukraine.
“Your freedom is ours,” Biden told Poland’s president, Andrzej Duda, echoing one of Poland’s unofficial mottos.
Both leaders shared mutual respect with the President of Warsaw and discussed their common goal to stop the Russian invasion.
“Although times are very difficult, today Polish-American relations are flourishing,” Duda said.
Over 3.7 million Ukrainians have fled Ukraine in the past two years. More than 2 million live in Poland. Earlier this week the U.S. announced it would take in as many as 100,000 refugees, and Biden told Duda that he understood Poland was “taking on a big responsibility, but it should be all of NATO’s responsibility.”
Biden called the “collective defense” agreement of NATO a “sacred commitment,” and said the unity of the Western military alliance was of the utmost importance.
“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.”
The war is now in its second month and European security faces its greatest challenge since World War II. The West’s leaders spent this week preparing contingency plans for the event of a conflict spreading. NATO’s complacency has been shaken and its dark cloud cast over Europe.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said a speech that Biden was scheduled to give later Saturday in Poland’s capital 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 remarks will end a four-day trip that included a series of summits in Brussels. In addition to the meeting with Duda, he attended a meeting of American and Ukrainian diplomatic and defense officials for an update on Ukraine’s military, diplomatic and humanitarian situation.
Biden also went to Warsaw to visit a stadium that allows Ukrainian refugees to get a Polish ID number, which grants them access to schools, health care, and other social services. A city with nearly 1.8million people saw 17% growth in one month.
Biden met with Rafal Trzaskowski, the Mayor of Rafal Trzaskowski and refugees. Although Poles are welcoming Ukrainians so far, most of the humanitarian efforts have been the work volunteers. Trzaskowski warned it’s not sustainable, and said that the social services are buckled under the pressure.
This stadium was constructed when Ukraine and Poland were hosting the European soccer championship in 2012. It is meant to be a sign of how far these two countries have come since the Cold War. It was also used as a COVID-19 field hospital.
Biden viewed his final speech Friday night in Rzeszow.
“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 said “the single most important thing that we can do from the outset” to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop the war “is keep the democracies united in our opposition.”
Biden praised the humanitarian effort as being of “such an enormous consequence” given the scope of the crisis, which adds up to the largest flow of refugees since World War II. He appeared to lament that security concerns “understandably” will keep him from visiting Ukraine on this trip.
Duda, who appeared with Biden on Friday, said the refugees are “guests.”
“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.
U.S. funds and supplies have been sent to the refugee aid effort. Biden this week announced an additional $1 billion of aid to refugees and also accepted them.
Many rounds of economic, and other sanctions have been imposed by the U.S. along with its allies on Russian people and banks in an attempt to force Putin to withdraw his troops.
Biden was due to visit Washington again after the Warsaw speech.
Reporting by Darlene SUPERVILLE, Washington Associated Press, Vanessa Gera in Warsaw and Monika SCISLOWSKA in Warsaw (Poland),
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