On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden met with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, and senior representatives of the Bucharest 9 (B9) to discuss the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.
The B9 is a group of Eastern and Central European countries that were formally a part of the Soviet Union or the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact. The group was founded in 2015 after its members grew alarmed by the annexation of Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine by Russia.
During the meeting, officials also expressed concern over Russian President Vladimir Putin’s intentions toward Moldova, a tiny former-Soviet state wedged between Russia and Romania.
Biden meets with NATO and the B9 in Warsaw
Every state in the B9 is also a member of NATO. The group consists of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia. Polish President Andrzej Duda, who co-founded the B9 with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in 2015, hosted the summit in Warsaw on Wednesday.
Duda commented that the discussions held today would shape the agenda in a forthcoming B9 summit in Bratislava, Slovakia, and a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. He expressed hopes that the meetings would facilitate “possibilities to provide further support to Ukraine.”
Join me as I meet with the leaders of our Bucharest Nine NATO Allies and the NATO Secretary General to reaffirm the United States’ unwavering support for the security of the NATO Alliance. https://t.co/4xdo4jlO7n
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 22, 2023
Biden was keen to use the opportunity to reaffirm Washington’s commitment to the security of NATO and the B9 in the face of perceived Russian aggression.
“Today, as we approach the one-year anniversary of Russia’s further invasion, it’s even more important that we continue to stand together,” the US president said. He also stressed that the US holds a “sacred commitment” to NATO’s Article Five, which stipulates that an attack against one member is an attack against all.
Stoltenberg thanked Biden for what he called “outstanding leadership” and applauded the US for its “ironclad commitment” to European security.
“NATO Allies have never been more united,” Stoltenberg said, “we will protect and defend every inch of Allied territory, based on our Article 5 commitment to defend each other.”
Thanks to President @AndrzejDuda for an important meeting with the leaders of #B9 countries & @POTUS. We made clear our commitment to #Ukraine is unwavering. #Nato Allies have never been more united & we will protect every inch of Allied territory. pic.twitter.com/oGD8UL5SWe
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) February 22, 2023
Moldova security fears
The security and political situation in Moldova was also discussed by the group. Concerns were raised by Putin’s decision on Tuesday to revoke a 2012 decree that in part, hinged Modlova’s sovereignty on a resolution to the future of the Transnistria region.
Transnistria is a small breakaway separatist state backed by Moscow. It is internationally recognized as a part of Moldova, however.
Anxieties were further heightened following pro-Russian protests against the new pro-Western government in Moldova’s capital, Chișinău. Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita has dismissed the protests as a Russian-backed coup plot and warned that the Kremlin was pursuing a campaign of “propaganda and disinformation”.
“Through violent actions, masked under protests of the so-called opposition, the change of power in Chisinau would be forced,” Gavrilita claimed. “In carrying out the plan, the authors rely on several internal forces, but especially on criminal groups such as the Shor formation and all of its derivatives.”
Viktor Orbán’s absence
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was notably absent from the meeting on Wednesday, although Hungarian President Katalin Novák attended.
Hungary is the exception to the B9 members, who have been the loudest voices in NATO calling for support against Russia for Ukraine.
However, landlocked Hungary is largely dependent on Russia for oil and gas. Thus, Budapest has been careful not to arouse the ire of Moscow and Orbán has been far more hesitant to criticize Putin than other NATO allies.
“The war in Ukraine is not a conflict between the armies of good and evil, but between two Slavic countries that are fighting against one another,” Orbán said last week. “This is their war, not ours.”
— Orbán Viktor (@PM_ViktorOrban) February 22, 2023