The wind was blowing hard on the Royal Palace in Warsaw. Cheered on by the crowd, Joe Biden took to the stage with a brisk step and reached the podium protected by armored glass.
On February 21, the American president, who had just returned from a surprise visit to Kyiv, had come to thank the Poles for standing side by side with Ukraine. Through his presence and solemn speech, he also wanted to etch in history his country’s determination to thwart Russia’s imperialist ambitions in defiance of international law, the sovereignty of Ukraine and its territorial integrity. “This war was never a necessity. It is a tragedy,” said Biden. Before arguing that Russian President Vladimir Putin “thought NATO would fracture and divide. Instead, NATO is stronger and more unified than ever before.”
In 2024, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will celebrate its 75th anniversary. For this occasion, Biden announced in Warsaw that the United States would host the summit of an alliance that has been revitalized by the Ukrainian conflict and found its bearing in adversity. But 2024 will also be marked by the American presidential election, and its uncertain outcome leaves doubt about Washington’s long-term renewed commitment to Europe’s defense. The trauma of the Trump presidency, which threatened to withdraw from NATO, remains vivid among allies. The United States will stand by Volodymyr Zelensky and Ukrainians “for as long as it takes,” Biden promised.
A convinced Atlanticist marked by the decades of the Cold War, Biden has put his political credibility and that of his country on the line by supporting Kyiv. The president, who aspired to put an end to the era of endless military ventures by withdrawing from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021, finds himself drawn into a kind of proxy war. Ukraine now means more than Ukraine. It’s a rallying cry, the spot where the fate of the international order based on law – to use a popular phrase in Washington – is being played out. If defeating Russia is the main objective, the precise method to achieve it remains unclear.
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Alignment of strategies
The West’s unity against this common adversary is real. Americans and Europeans both refuse any direct confrontation with Putin’s Russia. Their aim is to limit the war to Ukraine’s territory and push back the occupying army. “There is a very strong consensus between Europe and the United States and very little debate on the strategy to have about Ukraine and, more broadly, Russia. They are merely in agreement on a slogan, ‘Helping Ukraine win,'” noted Nicole Gnesotto , vice president of the Jacques-Delors Institute and specialist in Euro-American security issues. “What strikes me,” she continued, “is the European alignment with the American position – itself aligned with the Ukrainian strategy. Although it must be said that the Europeans have neither the will nor the capability to have their own strategy.”
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