Biden declares Ukraine will prevail against Russia in opening speech of NATO summit

Biden declares Ukraine will prevail against Russia in opening speech of NATO summit

President Biden on Tuesday said NATO has grown stronger and that Russia is “failing” in its war in Ukraine, as he vowed the alliance will continue standing up for freedom amid a rise in threats across the globe.

“Together, we built a global coalition to stand with Ukraine,” Biden said. “Make no mistake, Russia is failing in this war. More than two years into [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s war of choice, its losses are staggering. More than 350,000 Russian troops, dead, wounded … many young people have left Russia because they no longer see a future in Russia.”

Biden’s address at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, where NATO was created 75 years ago after world leaders signed a historic treaty, opened the first day of the Western security alliance’s summit.

NATO leaders will gather Wednesday and Thursday at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to draft a joint communiqué on policy, including support for Ukraine.

The speech came after a Russian strike on Monday in Ukraine killed at least 38 people, including four at a children’s hospital in Kyiv. Biden announced in the speech that Ukraine would receive five additional air defense units, which help to defend against Russian attacks.

Ukraine is unlikely to secure membership into the alliance this year, since the ongoing war with Russia would drag all 32 members of NATO into a war by triggering a defense article.

But the U.S. and other allies are expected to signal that Ukraine will be a member one day and to step up support for the country’s defense.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier this week he expects NATO to agree, by the end of the summit, on moving the roughly 50 nations that support Ukraine with military aid into a command post in Germany staffed by the alliance.

Stoltenberg also said he expects financial pledges from each of the allies to continue their current level of military support for at least another year.

Biden said that Putin “thought NATO would break” when he invaded Ukraine, but the alliance instead rallied around Kyiv.

“The war will end with Ukraine remaining a free and independent country,” he said. “Russia will not prevail. Ukraine will prevail.”

Biden also honored Stoltenberg, who is stepping down from his post in October after a decade in the role, and presented him with the highest civilian honor in the U.S., the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“He’s a man of integrity,” Biden said. “The secretary guided this alliance in one of the most consequential periods in its history … Today, NATO is stronger, smarter and more energized than when [he] began.”

Stoltenberg, in his own speech at the auditorium Tuesday, called for “political courage” in confronting global crises and urged allies to stand by Ukraine, warning that letting Russia win was the “greatest risk” facing the alliance.

Biden is being closely watched at the summit this week after his disastrous debate performance against former President Trump last month. He showed vigor in the speech Tuesday but mostly read from prepared remarks.

At the summit, leaders will also address questions about defense spending. A record 23 allies have spent at least 2 percent of gross domestic product, or economic output, on defense spending. But that still leaves nine members who have not met that goal.

Biden said Tuesday that under his presidency, NATO allies reaching the 2 percent goal climbed from nine to 23.

“This remarkable progress, proof that our commitment is broad and deep, [shows] that we’re ready, that we’re willing, we’re able to deter aggression and defend every inch of NATO territory, across every domain, land, air, sea, cyber and space,” Biden said.

Biden has long contrasted his backing for Ukraine and support for NATO against that of his GOP 2024 rival Trump, who has claimed he will end the war before he takes office. Trump has also threatened to not defend NATO allies who do not pay enough in defense spending.

But Biden says he strengthened NATO during his term through unifying support for Ukraine, and he has repeatedly emphasized the importance of allies in an increasingly dangerous world, a point he drove home Tuesday. He pointed to the inclusion of Finland and Sweden into the alliance in the past two years.

“Today, NATO is more powerful than ever,” he said, adding the alliance has always stood for a peace. “Here at this summit, we gather to proclaim NATO is ready and able to secure that vision today and well into the future.”

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