JOE Biden has promised that the Russian invasion of Ukraine has hardened western resolve to defend democracy around the globe.
The US president, returning to the Polish castle where he spoke shortly after the invasion began last year, warned there are “hard and bitter days ahead”, but pledged that the US and its allies will “have Ukraine’s back” as the war enters its second year.
“Democracies of the world will stand guard over freedom today, tomorrow and forever,” he said at the Royal Castle, a historical landmark in Warsaw, before a cheering crowd of Polish citizens and Ukrainian refugees.
His speech came a day after his unannounced trip to Kyiv, where he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“Kyiv stands strong,” Mr Biden declared. “Kyiv stands proud.”
Before his speech, he met Polish President Andrzej Duda as he began a series of consultations with allies to prepare for an even more complicated stage of Russia’s invasion.
“We have to have security in Europe,” Mr Biden said at the presidential palace in Warsaw. “It’s that basic, that simple, that consequential.”
He described Nato as “maybe the most consequential alliance in history”, and said it is “stronger than it’s ever been” despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s hopes that it would fracture over the war in Ukraine.
Mr Duda praised the American leader’s unannounced visit to Kyiv as “spectacular”, saying it “boosted morale of Ukraine’s defenders”.
He said the visit was “a sign that the free world, and its biggest leader, the president of the United States, stands by them”.
On Wednesday, Mr Biden plans to meet Mr Duda again along with other leaders of the Bucharest Nine, a group of the eastern-most members of the Nato military alliance.
The conflict in Ukraine — the most significant war in Europe since the Second World War — has already left tens of thousands of people dead, devastated Ukraine’s infrastructure and damaged the global economy.
While Mr Biden is looking to use his whirlwind trip to Europe as a moment of affirmation for Ukraine and allies, the White House has also emphasised there is no clear end game to the war in the near term, and the situation on the ground has become increasingly complex.
Mr Biden and Mr Zelensky discussed capabilities Ukraine needs “to be able to succeed on the battlefield” in the months ahead.
Mr Zelensky has been pushing the US and European allies to provide fighter jets and long-range missile systems known as ATACMS — which Mr Biden has declined to provide so far.