Biden commends NATO strength, pledges more aid for Ukraine against Russia

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President Joe Biden delivers remarks during the NATO 75th anniversary celebration at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium on July 9, 2024, in Washington. NATO leaders convened this week for an annual summit to discuss strategies and commitments and mark the 75th anniversary of the alliance’s founding (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images).WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said NATO “is more powerful than ever” in remarks Tuesday to honor the 75th anniversary of the alliance and reaffirm allied support for Ukraine one day after Russian missile strikes on a children’s hospital killed dozens in Kyiv.

Biden spoke at the annual North American Treaty Organization’s summit happening this week in Washington, D.C., where the 12 original member nations signed the Washington Treaty in 1949.

Heads of state fanned out across Washington, visiting lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is scheduled to meet with U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson Wednesday afternoon. Ukraine is not one of the 32 NATO member nations, but the country is in discussions to join and the alliance has sided with Ukraine in its war with Russia.

“It’s a pleasure to host you all in this milestone year, to look back with pride on all we’ve achieved and look ahead to our shared future with strength and resolve,” Biden said during the opening ceremony.

Biden’s 15-minute address came after a dozen days of near constant focus on his health and mental acuity after he flubbed his June 27 presidential debate performance against former President Donald Trump, whose criticism of NATO is well documented.

Biden spoke forcefully about the alliance’s history from the stage in the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, where world leaders and hundreds of dignitaries from NATO’s 32 member nations gathered, joined by other partner nations.

“Together we rebuilt Europe from the ruins of war, held high the torch of liberty during long decades of the Cold War. When former adversaries became fellow democracies, we welcomed them into the alliance,” Biden said.

“When war broke out in the Balkans, we intervened to restore peace and stop ethnic cleansing. When the United States was attacked on September 11, our NATO allies, all of you, stood with us, invoking Article Five for the first time in NATO history, treating an attack on us as an attack on all of us. A breathtaking display of friendship that the American people will never, ever, ever forget.”

Military aid

Biden used the remarks to announce a joint package of air defense systems for Ukraine in conjunction with Germany, Romania, the Netherlands and Italy. The package is expected to include donations of advanced missile launching systems known as Patriot batteries as well as other equipment, according to a joint statement issued by the White House shortly after Biden’s speech.

Biden described Russian President Vladimir Putin as NATO’s primary antagonist.

He praised the alliance for moving “swiftly” after Putin further invaded Ukraine in February 2022 and said “the war will end with Ukraine remaining a free and independent country.” Putin previously annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula by force in 2014.

“Before this war, Putin thought NATO was going to break. Today, NATO is stronger than it’s ever been in its history,” Biden declared.

Biden concluded the ceremony by honoring NATO’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the U.S.

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DC Bureau, Joe Biden, NATO