- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 22, 2023

President Biden on Wednesday ended his three-day trip to Ukraine and Poland by emphasizing the importance of the NATO alliance in standing up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Biden‘s remarks came during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the leaders of the nine countries that make up NATO‘s easternmost flank. The group, known as the Bucharest Nine, includes Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.

“You’re the front lines of our collective defense 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,” Mr. Biden told the leaders.

Ahead of the Bucharest Nine meeting, Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda criticized the U.S. and NATO‘s eastern flank for not doing more to end the war in Ukraine. He called on NATO and the U.S. to send more weapons to the war-torn country.

“Let’s give Ukraine all the weapons it needs to defeat the aggressor. Let’s continue building up our own defenses. Eastern NATO flank must remain our focus. No soft spots should be left,” Mr. Nausėda tweeted just hours before the meeting.

With the exception of Bulgaria and Hungary, the Bucharest Nine members are among the strongest supporters of increasing military aid to Ukraine and taking more aggressive steps against Moscow.

Mr. Biden did not directly address Mr. Nausėda’s remarks but underscored the need for NATO to remain united against Russian aggression.

“The next steps we can take together to keep our alliance strong and to further deter aggression because literally what is at stake is not just Ukraine. It’s freedom,” Mr. Biden said.  

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

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