VILNIUS - US President Joe Biden's meeting with representatives of the Bucharest Nine, also attended by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, is an important signal of political and practical attention to NATO's eastern flank, Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte says.
"The meeting with the leaders of NATO's eastern flank countries is a very important signal. It has been mentioned many times over the years that the Article 5 guarantees are ironclad, they are very solid, but they have to be reinforced with a political dimension, with such political attention, and with a practical dimension, with the physical reinforcement of the eastern flank," Simonyte told the Ziniu Radijas news radio on Thursday. "This invasion (…) has given NATO second wind."
As Russia's war in Ukraine continues, many of the Bucharest Nine countries are worried that if Russian President Vladimir Putin succeeds in Ukraine, his next target could be any of these countries.
The Bucharest Nine includes Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
The US president concluded his four-day visit to NATO's eastern flank allies Ukraine and Poland on Wednesday. On Monday, several days before the 1st anniversary of Russia's invasion of pro-Western Ukraine, Biden made a surprise visit to Kyiv where he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and vowed a new arms package and strong American support.
"I think it's extremely symbolic that President Biden visited Kyiv at this particular time because there was a very clear message here," the Lithuanian prime minister noted.
Putin delivered his annual speech on Tuesday and accused Western countries of causing and supporting the war in Ukraine. He also rejected Moscow's any responsibility.
"Clearly, the real event was President Biden in Kyiv, not Putin's speech," Simonyte said.