On the eve of a visit by the US President to Warsaw, Poland’s head of state called on the NATO powers to give Ukraine post-war security guarantees to reaffirm Western support for Kiev a year after the start of the Russian war.
Andrzej Duda told the Financial Times that promises of security guarantees are “important” for Ukraine and its soldiers’ morale, underlining “this feeling that NATO stands by them”.
The Polish President’s call comes as he prepares to receive Joe Biden at what is expected to be the key point of the US President’s visit this week to mark the anniversary of the Russian invasion.
While Ukraine is aware that it cannot join NATO now, Kiev expects a “partnership” with “some kind of security guarantees,” Duda said in an interview on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.
Duda also urged Biden to reiterate “in very strong words” during his Warsaw visit that the US unreservedly stands behind NATO’s Article 5, the Collective Defense Clause, which treats any attack on one member state as an attack on all.
The security guarantees Ukraine seeks would be structured differently, effectively committing leading NATO powers like the US, Britain and France to provide military assistance in the event of a future attack on Ukraine.
Former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who co-authored a formal proposal for Ukraine’s post-war security with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak, has described such guarantees as similar to those Israel enjoys from the US .
In Munich, US and German officials downplayed the need for security guarantees at this time, arguing that the military support being given to Ukraine is the assurance Kiev needs.
Ukraine, however, insists that, following its experience with the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, it needs firmer guarantees of military assistance. Under this deal, Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for a pledge by Russia, Britain and the US not to use military force against them.
Kiev applied for NATO membership in September, although allies recognize that this is not a short-term prospect as long as the war rages on.
Duda’s call for guarantees would require Washington’s commitments to Ukraine to go beyond what Biden talked about recently. Some other NATO countries are also shying away from binding commitments, fearing being drawn into a war with Russia, instead arguing for strengthening Ukraine’s military to ensure it can defend itself.
“There is quite a heated debate about security guarantees, but I really don’t think President Biden wants to bring this up now,” said Michał Baranowski, director of the Warsaw office of the German Marshall Fund think tank. Instead, the US government is pushing a “porcupine strategy,” which means “arming Ukrainians to the teeth so they can negotiate directly with Russia.”
Biden is visiting Warsaw for the second time in a year, and Duda predicted this week’s trip would have “a major impact” on “the entire eastern flank of NATO.”
“It also sends a signal to US investors,” Duda said, referring to Poland and other neighboring countries of Ukraine. “This place is safe, so you can safely invest your money here.”
After ending a protracted dispute over whether Germany would agree to sending German-made Leopard tanks to Ukraine, tensions have now arisen over when the tanks will actually be delivered. Germany last week chided Poland and other Leopard-armed countries for not sending them to Kiev faster.
But Duda said Poland is sticking to its military commitments to Ukraine and that any delay also reflects the need to ensure the availability of spare parts for the Leopards.
“I don’t quite understand what you’re saying [by Germany]’ said Duda. “Germany is the only producer of spare parts. . . There are no other countries that would be authorized to do so. So if Germany doesn’t deliver these spare parts, we have a problem with that.”
Biden’s stay in Warsaw on Tuesday and Wednesday will include a meeting with the so-called Bucharest Nine groups of countries from Central and Eastern Europe that joined NATO after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Biden is scheduled to deliver a speech Tuesday night to “make it clear that the US will continue to stand with Ukraine. . . while it lasts,” said John Kirby, a spokesman for the US National Security Council, who did not rule out meeting Zelenskyy during the trip. “We are in constant communication with the Ukrainians about their needs.”
Additional reporting by Lauren Fedor in Washington