The White House
Office of the Vice President
Remarks to the Press by Vice President Joe Biden with Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland
Prime Minister’s Chancellery
1:56 P.M. (Local)
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Mr. Prime Minister, these are challenging times. And I've known you for a while and the President and I have great respect for you, and we're absolutely confident that we are up to the challenge. It’s more important today than ever that friends stand with one another and be unequivocal about it. That's why I'm here in Poland, as a steadfast ally, an ally as -- a country -- as strong an ally as a country can wish to have, and you are among the best allies America has, Mr. Prime Minister.
Ukraine -- it's an almost unbelievable set of events that has brought us here. The President asked me to come to Warsaw today to reaffirm the United States’ solemn commitment, solemn NATO commitment, and to consult with Poland’s leaders about the situation in Ukraine.
The people of Ukraine have shown tremendous courage and they’ve worked very hard to realize their aspirations for a more democratic future, free of oligarchy and corruption; for a Ukraine connected to institutions and markets of Europe, but respectful of Ukraine’s deep cultural and economic ties to its neighbors.
Unfortunately, Russia’s leaders have responded with a brazen -- brazen military incursion, with a purposeful ratcheting up of ethnic tensions inside Ukraine, with a rushed and illegal referendum in Crimea that was, not surprisingly, rejected by virtually the entire world, and now, today, with steps to annex Crimea.
We join Poland and the international community condemning the continuing assault on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and the blatant -- the blatant violation of international law by Mr. Putin and Russia.
Russia has offered a variety of arguments to justify what is nothing more than a land grab, including what was said today. But the world has seen through -- has seen through Russia’s action and has rejected the logic -- the flawed logic behind those actions. Countries like Poland have shown that real progress comes from open societies who, in fact, have open markets, not from invasion and aggression.
Thirteen of the 15 countries on the Security Council of the United Nations voted to condemn the referendum in Crimea as illegitimate. Even China decided it could not support it and abstained, and Russia -- Russia stood alone, naked in front of the world, for the aggression that they had undertaken. It's a simple fact that Russia’s political and economic isolation will only increase if it continues down its current path and it will, in fact, see additional -- additional sanctions by the United States and the EU.
As the Prime Minister and I discussed in a fairly long meeting we had this morning, as we impose costs on Russia for violating international law we have to be equally resolute in supporting the regime -- supporting the government in Ukraine right now. The United States is working to provide a billion-dollar loan guarantee, technical assistance to prepare for free and fair elections, and support for reforms that will allow the IMF to provide a stronger stabilization package for Ukraine.
The Prime Minister and I discussed how the United States and Europe can carry forward its support for Ukraine and the Ukrainian people in the face of their immediate needs. The Prime Minister and I reviewed our mutual commitments as NATO allies. The United States and Poland stand shoulder-to-shoulder in vital missions around the world. But recent events remind us that the bedrock of our alliance remains collective self-defense, as enshrined in Article 5 of the NATO Treaty. Our intent is that NATO emerge from this crisis stronger and more unified than ever.
If you want to know what we think, President Obama and I view Article 5 as a solemn commitment not only for our time, but for all time. We take it deadly serious, and our commitment is absolutely unwavering and unshakeable. That's why the United States has just deployed 12 F-16 fighter jets to the Lask Airbase in Poland. We've augmented the U.S. rotation of NATO’s Baltic air policing program protecting the skies over Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuanian, where I'll be traveling tomorrow. Instead of four F-15s we have sent 10.
Today, the combatant commander for Europe is convening a meeting in Croatia with the chiefs of defense of Central and Eastern European countries to discuss the current situation, which Poland will be attending, and we'll pursue additional steps that will strengthen our alliance for the future.
At NATO, we'll encourage allies to update contingency planning and threat assessments. Working with our Polish friends, we want to recognize our Polish aviation detachment to offer opportunities for other allies to work with combined training and expand our training to include U.S. Army planners as well as taking further steps.
It goes without saying that collective defense is a shared responsibility, and the United States of America strongly supports Poland’s military modernization and we look forward to being a partner in that modernization. We appreciate Poland’s commitment to carry its share of the financial burden, as all ally NATO should do.
For our part, U.S. plans for a European phased adaptive approach to ballistic missile defense, which we announced almost five years ago -- those plans are on schedule. We've met our target so far and we will -- we will, in fact, bring it to fruition. That is our firm commitment, an operational missile defense site here in Poland by 2018.
Mr. Prime Minister, we also spoke about energy. In the coming weeks, we'll be meeting with our European partners to discuss ways to further diversify their source and supplies of energy. This will help improve energy security and it will ensure that no nation can use the supply of gas as a political weapon against any other nation. Today, the Prime Minister and I spoke about steps Poland is taking to reverse natural gas flows into some pipelines to help the Ukrainians access additional supplies of gas if needed.
Finally, we talked about a negotiations toward the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the United States and Europe. This is already, that trade, is already the largest commercial relationship in the world. But we have an additional chance to significantly expand together, creating jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.
So, Mr. Prime Minister, we are profoundly grateful for your friendship and the friendship of the people of Poland. It is said that Joshua’s trumpet brought down the walls of Jericho. But I watched personally that it was Poland’s courage that unleashed the forces that brought down the Berlin Wall. You set a standard, Mr. Prime Minister, and your country set a standard for what a country can achieve when it has the courage to reach for its freedom. And we look forward to continue to work very closely together in the days ahead, Mr. Prime Minister.
May God bless Poland, and may God protect our troops. Thank you very much for all you’ve done.
2:06 P.M. (Local)