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Biden says U.S. support for Ukraine 'will not waver' in Poland speech

President Biden delivers a speech at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland a day after his secret visit to Ukraine. Biden promised further U.S. support for Ukraine as it continues fighting Russia's invasion.
Mandel Ngan
/
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden delivers a speech at the Royal Castle in Warsaw, Poland a day after his secret visit to Ukraine. Biden promised further U.S. support for Ukraine as it continues fighting Russia's invasion.

Updated February 21, 2023 at 1:09 PM ET

A day after his secret visit to Kyiv, President Biden promised that Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia.

Speaking from Warsaw, Poland, Biden boasted of how the west had responded to the aggression from Moscow and said leaders must continue to stand up for freedom and democracy.

"When Russia invaded, it wasn't just Ukraine being tested. The whole world faced a test for the ages. Europe was being tested," Biden said from the gardens of the Royal Castle.

"There should be no doubt. Our support for Ukraine will not waver. NATO will not be divided. And we will not tire," he added.

The speech came just hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his own address in Moscow — though the White House insisted the timing was coincidental.

Putin said the war in Ukraine was an existential struggle against the West, which he claimed started the war. And he said the sanctions against Russia had no effect on the country's economy. He also said he was suspending Russia's participation in the New START arms control treaty.

Biden responds to Putin's speech

Biden addressed the people of Russia in response to Putin's accusations about responsibility for the war, saying the west does not seek to control Russia.

"The west was not plotting to attack Russia, as Putin said today, and millions of Russian citizens only want to live in peace with their neighbors are not the enemy," Biden said. "This war was never a necessity. It's a tragedy. President Putin chose this war. Every day the war continues is his choice. "

President Biden delivers a speech in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday.
Mandel Ngan / AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden delivers a speech in Warsaw, Poland, on Tuesday.

Biden also accused Russia of committing "crimes against humanity, without shame or compunction."

"They've targeted civilians with death and destruction; used rape as a weapon of war," he said. "Stolen Ukrainian children in an attempt to steal Ukraine's future. Bombed train stations, maternity hospitals, schools and orphanages. No one, no one can turn away their eyes from the atrocities Russia is committing against the Ukrainian people."

What's at stake, Biden said, is "freedom." He cast the war as a battle between democracy and autocracy.

He spoke directly to citizens of Belarus and Moldova, expressing support for their fight for democracy, and called for opposition against autocracies.

"Appetites of the autocrat cannot be appeased. They must be opposed. Autocrats only understand one word: 'no, no, no'," Biden said. "'No, you will not take my country. No, you will not take my freedom. No, you will not take my future.'"

Biden's visit comes as the war enters a new phase

The visit to Ukraine and Poland comes at a critical time as the war enters a new and disconcerting phase. Russia has launched its latest spring offensive. Ukraine is expected to soon mount its own counteroffensive — with the assistance of U.S. and western weapons. And the end of the war is nowhere in sight.

Biden seeks to reassure the region that U.S. support remains strong, while sending a message back home that the U.S. needs to remain united behind Ukraine.

Biden also me with Polish President Andrzej Duda and will later meet with leaders of eastern flank allies known as the "Bucharest 9."

Poland is a close NATO ally and has provided $3.8 billion in military and humanitarian assistance. Kirby said Biden will also use the opportunity to thank Poland for hosting U.S. forces.

Biden has insisted he will not send U.S. troops to Ukraine. But he's been equally adamant that the United States was prepared to defend NATO members.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.