BBG Watch Commentary
In yet another news reporting failure, U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) still has nothing as of 11:30AM EDT, Tuesday, about U.S. Vice President Biden’s remarks today in Warsaw, Poland, on Russia and Ukraine, while Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) has already covered Biden’s comments in a full-length news report on its website.
UPDATE: Eventually, VOA reported on some of Vice President Biden’s comments in Warsaw but did not post a separate news report on his trip and did not have a correspondent accompanying him.
It appears that Voice of America executives have not made arrangements for a VOA correspondent to travel with Vice President Biden to Warsaw, Poland and Vilnius, Lithuania, two NATO countries near Russia.
Under the VOA leadership of director David Ensor and executive editor Steve Redisch, VOA news coverage has deteriorated and VOA correspondents rarely travel abroad even with President Obama, inside sources told BBG Watch. VOA had failed twice recently to stream live President Obama’s special statements on Ukraine and Russia and has been late numerous times in reporting on significant U.S. reactions to events in Ukraine, BBG Watch has confirmed.
These failures affect not only VOA English website but also news websites of more than 40 VOA language services. VOA management has not given VOA Ukrainian and Russian services sufficient resources to update their websites and social media pages. VOA Ukrainian Service does much better, however, than VOA English and other VOA services in reporting on Ukraine-related news, but continues to be understaffed.
DW was quick to report that shortly after Biden addressed reporters in Warsaw, U.S. President Obama invited leaders of the G-7 and European Union to meet about the crisis in Ukraine, according to the White House. Voice of America was late reporting on the meeting announcement, which was issued by the White House.
Ironically, Voice of Russia was one of the first media outlets to report on the White House announcement and posted its report well before VOA mentioned it briefly by eventually updating an older report.
“The meeting will focus on the situation in Ukraine and further steps that the G7 may take to respond to developments and to support Ukraine,” White House National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said.
The meeting would take place next week on the sidelines of a nuclear summit in The Hague.
Updating of news by VOA is spotty. While VOA eventually reported what Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said at a joint news conference with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Warsaw, VOA initially did not report what Biden said.
VOA: Poland said on Tuesday that the international community cannot accept Russia’s intervention in Crimea.
“Russia’s annexation of Crimea can’t be accepted by the international community including Poland. In one moment this changes the country’s [Ukraine] borders and the geopolitical situation in this region of the world,” Prime Minister Donald Tusk said at a joint news conference with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Biden was in to Warsaw to reassure Poland, a NATO member, that it is safe in the face of events in Ukraine. The vice president will also meet with the leaders of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia. Obama Calls for G7 Meeting After Putin Signs Treaty to Annex Crimea, VOA News, March 18, 2014.
UPDATE: Eventually, VOA English website posted Vice President Biden’s “land grab” comment, which Deutsche Welle other international and U.S. media outlets were reporting much earlier.
DW also reported these remarks by Vice President Biden in Warsaw, which VOA did not report:
“These are challenging times…” Biden | DW
“It’s more important today than ever that friends stand with one another and be unequivocal about it…” Biden | DW
“The world has seen through Russia’s actions and has rejected the flawed logic behind those actions…” Biden | DW
Voice of Russia also reported on some of Vice President Biden’s comments in Warsaw that Voice of America did not report, but Voice of Russia did not mention the “land grab” comment.
VOICE OF RUSSIA: “The United States will work on greater diversification of energy sources in the Baltics and may consider rotating units of its ground and naval forces through the region for training exercises, US Vice President Joe Biden said on Tuesday.”
US mulling military exercises in Baltics – Biden, Voice of Russia, March 18, 2014.
Voice of Russia had three separate news reports on Biden’s visit to the region, while Voice of America had none (VOA reported briefly and late on Biden’s visit within the body of other reports.)
The US vice president has reaffirmed US support and NATO commitments to Poland, while condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine. The comments came as Russian President Putin signed an annexation treaty with Crimea.
Had Voice of America sent its own correspondent with Vice President Biden, there was plenty of material that could be reported.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release March 18, 2014
BACKGROUND PRESS BRIEFING
BY A SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
ON THE VICE PRESIDENT’S TRIP TO POLAND AND LITHUANIA
Aboard Air Force Two
En Route Vilnius, Lithuania
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Try to do this efficiently. In the Vice President’s three statements today, he spoke for himself and gave I think pretty good readouts of his meetings, so I’m not going to go into real detail. I’ll focus instead on answering your questions.
Let me just say at the outset that his purpose in going to Warsaw was to reassure our allies — both Poland and the Estonian President, who he met there of the United States’ bedrock commitment to Article 5, to consult with them on the situation in Ukraine, and to discuss both longer term strategic posture issues relating to energy security or economic cooperation and the future of NATO as we head towards the fall summit in Wales.
And those were the things he set out to do, and those were the things he did. So in terms of getting into more specifics or addressing questions, why don’t I just open it up?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: And just as a reminder, I think he said it at the top, but this is on background as a senior administration official. I just wanted to remind folks of that.
Q Can you tell us a bit more, can you be a bit more descriptive of what they’re talking about in terms of diversifying energy sources and supplies? It was a little technical at times. And I’m just wondering if you could try to explain to me a little bit what’s on the table? What are they pursuing.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, there are a few issues at play here; some short-term issues relating to Ukraine’s energy security. And they discussed potential reverse flow, which is the flow of gas supplies from Poland and Hungary into Ukraine if need be.
It’s also worth noting that because of a milder than usual winter, Europe itself has elevated levels of gas supplies, which puts them on a better footing than they would ordinarily be at a time like this.
Then there’s the medium and longer term where in Poland you have the issue of shale gas —
Q I just can’t hear you.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: In Poland you have the issue of shale gas. The U.S. has worked closely with the Poles, both in terms of technology with our companies, and in terms of their regulatory structure in Poland to exploit shale reserves. And there have been a number of regulatory challenges along the way. And just two weeks ago after the advent of this crisis, the Polish government actually took some steps forward in terms of the legal regime that opened a space considerably for potential exploitation of those resources.
Obviously, there’s the issue of U.S. LNG, which is more the long-term issue. As many of you know, it’s the Department of Energy that approves conditional licenses based on a variety of factors, including economic, energy security, environmental and geopolitical factors. And they’ve approved six licenses so far totaling 8.5 billion cubic feet that can go to both FTA countries and non-FTA countries, like Europe. But the first of those wouldn’t come online until next year at the earliest, and others well beyond that, so that is a longer term proposition.
But they had the opportunity to touch based on U.S. LNG supplies. And for our part, as I said last night, the United States is obviously reviewing and considering what we can and should do domestically to serve both our interests and the interests of our European partners.
And then beyond that, there are broader questions in terms of regulation, in terms of pipelines, in terms of usage — energy efficiency — that all relate to building overall energy security in Europe. So as I described last night, and as the Vice President reiterated today: Energy can’t be used as a political weapons.
Q Did any conclusions actually come out of this? Or was it more of a discussion? In other words, have Poland and Hungary decided yes, we will do some reverse flows to Ukraine? And has the U.S. decided, yes, we will either provide fuel or help fund fuel to Ukraine beyond what’s already been announced?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’ll let Poland speak for itself on the reverse flow issue. And in terms of U.S. LNG, there weren’t any decisions taken in this meeting. This wouldn’t be the appropriate place to do that. But it was an opportunity to talk about the strategic picture over the medium term and how it is that Europe puts itself in the best position going forward. This is an argument that the U.S. has been making to Europe for some time. And there are an increasing number of champions within the European Union to improve the overall energy security picture now, and I think you can expect that in the coming weeks, the U.S. will be having robust engagements with our European partners on a lot of the practical and technical questions around this.
Q Can you talk about the possibility of the U.S. rotating troops into the Baltic region? Is this an expansion of the existing air patrol program? Or is this a more substantial new program that we would be launching?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, first of all, we have augmented the Baltic air patrol by adding additional planes. And we’ve also encouraged other allies to do the same thing, including the British and the Poles and others.
What the Vice President was referring to today is actually increased rotations of ground and naval forces to participate in training exercises and training missions so that over time we improve the capabilities of the Baltic nations and improve our interoperability with them. So this would be in addition to the Baltic Air Policing element, it would be a ground and naval effort. And what the Vice President said is that we’ve begun the process of exploring how we can do that in a way that’s effective both for our forces and for the Baltic forces. But you can expect to see more details on that in the days ahead.
Q Just to clarify, that would be the first time, though, that we would be putting ground or naval troops specifically in the Baltics, is that correct?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: It wouldn’t be stationing troops there. It would be a rotation of troops going to do training exercises of sorts. And at present we obviously have forces stationed in Lithuania at the air base supporting the mission, so this would not be a fundamental expansion of — or kind of crossing of a basic line so to speak. It’s more an opportunity to enhance our capacity to do training with them actually in the region, as opposed to bringing them to the United States or doing it elsewhere.
Q Just to — a question on the air policing, the Vice President alluded to the fact that the U.S.’s rotation would be up and the Poles will come in. Do those extra planes, are they attached to the operation regardless? Or do those planes come out when the U.S. rotates out of it, then it’s dependent on who the next partner is who comes in?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: So the U.S. planes will rotate out on the presumption that essentially an equal number of planes from allies will rotate in. And we have strong reason to believe that that is what will happen, that the continued elevated level of aircraft stationed in the Baltics will persist beyond the time of our deployment. If for whatever reason that changes, obviously, we’ll take a close look at making sure that that number stays elevated.
Q The date?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I’ll have to check, but I believe it’s April, the end of April that our rotation comes offline and Poland and other allies will come online.
Q The folks that Biden talked to today seemed to have some tough words about the U.S. and its allies not doing enough to stem Russian military buildup in years past; specifically the Polish President said some pretty strongly worded things about this shouldn’t have been a surprise to anybody, we should take this as a lesson learned. I know that the Vice President did respond to that in his remarks a little bit, but I’m just curious what does he and the rest of the administration make of those criticisms, especially as he’s meeting — observing conveyed to him during these meetings these past couple days?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I will say that the level of gratitude that was expressed by both the Polish President and the Polish Prime Minister, as well as the Estonian President, was commensurate with the rather remarkable investment the United States has made in the security of Poland and Estonia, as well as our other Baltic partners.
Whether it’s the 10,000 Polish troops a year that participate in security cooperation exercises with the United States, or it’s the Baltic Air Policing that we’re doing, or it’s bringing the three Baltic Presidents to the U.S. for a summit meeting with our President last year, or it’s up and down Russia’s periphery — from Bulgaria and Romania all the way up to the Baltics, the intensive training, exercising, intelligence sharing, you name it in the security realm, and the United States is doing it, so we’re very proud of the work that we’ve done through NATO to support these countries. And these countries are very grateful to the United States for what we’ve done.
In terms of the Russian military buildup, obviously we’ve been watching that closely since the invasion of Georgia. And it’s been no surprise that the Russians have been developing a range of their capabilities. And what we have sought to do over the last five years is ensure as much transparency as possible in that, and then most importantly provide the manpower, the equipment, the capacity building, the intelligence sharing and every other dimension of security cooperation to all of our allies, especially our frontline allies. And I think our record on that really speaks for itself over the last five years.
Q Just one on sanctions? I didn’t hear a lot in the readouts today explicitly about sanctions. And I’m wondering what the Vice President heard from the allies about I guess fears of retaliation because of sanctions, or fears from these countries about how Russia might retaliate.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: He heard from both the Estonians and the Poles that they will go to the European leaders meeting later this week prepared to advocate for increasing the costs on Russia for its continued violations of international law. Poland and Estonia will be two advocates for that proposition when the leaders gather later this week.
I don’t want to go into more detail than that because I’d like to let them speak for themselves. But over the course of the last few weeks, I think both Poland and Estonia have made their views pretty plain about what they’re prepared to stand up for, and you heard the Estonian President today speak very passionately on this subject.
Q Did the Vice President share his views, his passionate views on how Europe needs to do more than just worry about the price of gas? Like he put it very strongly, does the Vice President agree with that? He sort implied that he did.
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, it was a colorful way of putting it to contrast the price of gas and the price of values. And he let the Estonian President speak for himself.
What the U.S. administration and the Vice President have said all along is that the United States and Europe need to remain very closely coordinated in ensuring that there are continuing costs and increasing political and economic isolation for Russia in response to this.
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release March 18, 2014
REMARKS TO THE PRESS
BY VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN
AND PRESIDENT TOOMAS ILVES OF ESTONIA
Warsaw Marriott Hotel
5:20 P.M. (Local)
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Good afternoon, everyone. Mr. President, I was pleased to have another chance to get together with you and speak with you today, and I appreciate the fact you made the time to see me in the midst of your own state visit to Poland. I appreciate it very much. And I look forward to seeing your fellow Baltic heads of state tomorrow in Vilnius.
Estonia’s success is, in our view, a living testament to what’s possible — where innovators can breathe free and people can speak their minds, where democratic rights and universal freedoms are protected, and when countries are free to choose their own path.
The Estonian people, like many of Russia’s neighbors, have a personal stake in what’s happening in Ukraine. Your history reminds us of how vigilant you have to remain. And today, Mr. President, we’ve consulted on a path ahead. We spoke about the steps we’re taking alongside many other nations to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; to help Ukraine stabilize its economy and conduct fair and free democratic elections; and to condemn and reject Russia’s illegal — absolutely illegal conduct in taking steps to annex Crimea. And also, we talked about how to impose costs on Russia for their aggression. There’s no other word for it; it’s aggression.
And when we speak about costs, we’re talking about more than just sanctions. We’re talking about Russia putting itself on a path that undermines long-term confidence and creates obstacles for its full participation in the global economy. That path they’ve placed themselves on does nothing to help the next generation of Russians compete and succeed in a world that will be led by the most open, innovative and dynamic economies.
The President and I also discussed our commitments as NATO allies. I came here today and will travel to Vilnius tomorrow to stand with our NATO allies and reconfirm and reaffirm our shared commitment to collective self-defense, to Article 5. I want to make it absolutely clear what it means to the Estonian people and all the people of the Baltics. President Obama and I view Article 5 of the NATO Treaty as an absolutely solemn commitment which we will honor — we will honor.
And that’s why, in the past few weeks, we’ve had substantial — we have substantially augmented the U.S. rotation of NATO’s Baltic air policing program and that protects the skies over Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. We’re working to line up countries to continue to augment that rotation after our turn comes to an end and we will turn the mission over to Poland.
Looking ahead, we’re exploring a number of additional steps to increase the pace and scope of our military cooperation, including rotating U.S. forces to the Baltic region to conduct ground and naval exercise, as well as training missions. Next week will mark the 10th anniversary of the Baltic States’ membership in NATO.
A decade ago, I had the privilege as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, as a United States senator, to champion your admission. The security partnership we built together has surpassed even the high expectations of those of us who argued on behalf of admission. I know because, as I said, I was one of them.
In Afghanistan, Estonian troops fought alongside Americans. We worked closely together on cybersecurity, which you’re leading. Estonia remains one of the few NATO countries that invests, has committed, 2 percent of its gross domestic product to defense year after year.
The relationship, Mr. President, goes beyond security as well as our discussions did. Mr. President, we admire and value Estonia’s contribution and the example you set as a successful young democracy. Ours is a partnership based on shared values, and it’s no surprise we work together to support other young democracies like Tunisia and Moldova. And as we discussed today, Mr. President, we’re working to create an even greater economic integration and cooperation to diversify your sources of energy.
Mr. President, for decades America kept faith with the dream of freedom and independence of the Baltic people. Your security and your success matters a great deal to us. Your friendship also matters, and your personal friendship as well.
So, Mr. President, thank you for making time for us. And may God bless the people of Estonia, and may God protect our troops.
PRESIDENT TOOMAS ILVES: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. And thank you for illustrating what a close relationship we have with this great idea of getting together and discussing how things are going, because ultimately that’s how allies are. We don’t have these formal meetings where you come in and prearrange, but we get together to discuss how we see things. And I think that is what — that is the essence of an alliance, is being able to talk with your friends and like-minded people about what needs to be done. And today was a great example of precisely this kind of meeting, and it was — that’s why I say thank you, because it reassured me that things are going the right way.
And of course, we did come here to discuss things that aren’t going the right way. The Ukrainian crisis is something that causes concern for all people who believe in freedom and justice and rule of law, and also even in international law, where we see such blatant cases of aggression, of violations of international law, where, if the international community does not stand up, the international order will collapse because the kinds of behavior we’ve seen is dangerous for the world.
And here, again, thank you for the U.S.’s leadership in the Security Council, and especially Ambassador Power’s great statements. We really liked them in Estonia.
But when we think about where we are, it’s quite clear that we are — the actions of the last several weeks have led us to — are forcing us to reassess the past or the assumptions of the past 20, 25 years. The old idea of NATO, which I remember from 20 years ago, out of the area or out of business, predicated on a Europe that no longer has any threats. That, unfortunately, has turned out, with the actions we’ve seen against Ukraine, no longer to apply.
The East-West relationship needs to be put on a new standing. We and NATO must draw our conclusions from Russia’s behavior in the current crisis; we need and must conduct a review of the entire range of NATO-Russia relations. The principles — the well-meaning, fundamental principles of the 1997 Founding Act — NATO-Russia Founding Act don’t apply anymore. There is no more respect for territorial integrity, for transparency. And if that is the case, we have to draw our own conclusions. And that is my hope — that at the upcoming NATO summit in Wales, we will have drawn our own conclusions and refocus on collective defense. The raison d’etre of NATO is to defend members of the Alliance and defend the territory of the members of the Alliance. And so a refocus on the original idea of NATO is what must come out of Wales.
We discussed, also, the response of Europe. Europe has responded, but it is our belief in Estonia, and, I understand, in some other countries — among them, the United States — that the response must be more robust than it has been. The response should not be about the price of gas, it must be about common values and the price of not adhering to those common values. That is a far more serious and costly price, is giving up our values.
So tomorrow, when the Council will meet in Brussels, Estonia will be championing those values. And it is my sincere hope that many members of the European Union will join us in standing up for the values that make Europe Europe.
Specifically on our bilateral relations, let me say, once again, I’d like to thank you, Mr. Vice President, and the United States, for your very swift response to the crisis, and the augmentation of Baltic air policing, backing us up when we feel a need for it. That is what NATO is about. On our part, you can count on us to do what it takes to not only keep up our share of 2 percent, but also when it comes to helping out in Ukraine, for example, our knowhow is there to be used and we are committed to you to help.
Ultimately, I think this, once again, a serious crisis in Europe has shown that the presence of the United States in Europe — and especially in our region, the Baltic area — is absolutely vital. It is what allows us to give credibility to NATO. And we thank you for helping us in this way and giving NATO that credibility that all of Europe so desperately needs.
END 5:32 P.M (Local)
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release March 18, 2014
REMARKS TO THE PRESS
BY VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN
WITH PRESIDENT BRONISLAW KOMOROWSKI OF POLAND
3:47 P.M. (Local)
VICE PRESIDENT BIDEN: Mr. President, thank you very much. Let me begin where you ended. Russia has increased their budget. But I want to remind you, you have an ally whose budget is larger than the next 10 nations in the world combined. So while others may not have stood up to their responsibilities, the United States has more than stood up to its responsibilities. We have a budget larger than the next 10 nations in the world combined, so don’t worry about where we are. Number one.
Number two, Mr. President, my mother used to have a saying — she’d say, you’re defined by your courage and you are redeemed by your loyalty. Well, I doubt there’s another nation on Earth that would better fit that description than Poland. The Polish coat of arms, the Solidarity flag hanging here over us, the Polish constitution in this room — it strikes me that I don’t think there’s a country in the world that knows better than Poland both the bitter cost of aggression and the sweetness of liberty.
Today, Mr. President, the people of Ukraine are reaching for that very same right and freedoms that the Poles cherish. They want a government that serves its people and they want the right to free expression, the chance to choose Ukraine’s path and affiliations as a united nation without fear of coercion. That’s their goal, what you’ve accomplished.
They understand that the verdict of history is absolutely clear: Societies like Poland that embrace these values — openness, freedom, the respect for the rule of law — they are the countries that own and will own the future. Those that bet instead on aggression and fear-mongering are bound to fail. And so we look to our Polish friends who made the journey of freedom within our lifetime to exercise leadership in helping Ukraine follow in your footsteps.
Today, Mr. President, we spoke about a situation that’s unfolding in Ukraine. We agreed on the need for the United States, Poland and our European friends to stand together in supporting Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders, rejecting Russia’s absolutely illegitimate claims and steps to annex Crimea, and imposing costs on Russia and Mr. Putin for Russian aggression while making it clear there is a better path if they choose to take it, and helping the Ukrainian people and their government as they chart a new future.
As we proceed, Mr. President, I want to make it unmistakingly clear to you and to all our allies in the region that our commitment to mutual self-defense under Article 5 of NATO remains ironclad. It is not in question. It is ironclad.
Fifteen years ago, I was honored, as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, to lead the fight for Poland’s admission into NATO — in other words, to put that very commitment, that very commitment of Article 5, put that in place for Poland. Have no doubt, the United States will honor its commitments. We always do.
And today, Mr. President, you and I spoke about the steps that have been taken in recent days to bolster our security presence in Europe, including deployment of 12 American F-16 fighter jets and hundreds of American servicemen to Poland. We’ve also discussed new opportunities for training and exercises that we’ll pursue through NATO here in Poland. As I said earlier today, our missile defense plans continue on schedule, including our firm commitment to place an operational missile defense site here in Poland by 2018.
And for its part, Poland has launched an impressive effort to modernize its military. It stands as an excellent example for all in NATO. The United States looks forward to being a strong partner in your effort to modernize, Mr. President, of course. Our partnership and our discussions extended far beyond militaries. We also spoke extensively about our work together in the advance of trade and energy security.
Mr. President, President Obama and I want the Polish people to know that there is a deep, deep commitment to Poland that lives in the hearts of a vast majority of Americans. And I’m sure any Pole who has ever visited America — the United States has felt it. It’s real. It’s deep.
And if you’ll excuse, as we used to say when I was in the United States Senate, Mr. President, a point of personal privilege — there‘s a Polish cavalryman’s sword presented to me by your predecessor, by your government, that hangs proudly in my family home. It’s a small token of the value many Americans place on our countries’ friendship, and a value I place on your country’s friendship and yours.
May God bless Poland, and may God protect our troops. We are together.
END 3:53 P.M. (Local)
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
For Immediate Release March 18, 2014
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.
END 2:06 P.M. (Local)