By Christi Parsons, Tribune Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — Vice President Joe Biden arrived in Poland on Tuesday for a two-day tour to reassure Eastern European allies unnerved by Russian aggression in Ukraine that the United States is committed to their security.
As Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties in Moscow to annex the Crimean peninsula, Biden landed in Warsaw to talk about how the NATO alliance should respond.
At the top of the list is to affirm the U.S. pledge to assist any ally under attack, a senior administration official told reporters traveling with Biden aboard Air Force Two.
U.S. allies are increasingly nervous Putin’s intervention won’t stop with Crimea. The Pentagon is deploying more F-16 fighter jets and troops to Poland as Russian forces tighten their grip in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula.
But the U.S. conversation about pushing back against Russia has focused on imposing sanctions and other “costs,” not on a military response.
During his trip to Poland and Lithuania, an adviser said, Biden will be talking about steps the U.S. and the NATO allies can take to bolster security of Poland and the Baltics, including making the region less dependent on the oil and gas that flows from Russia, according to a pool report from Biden’s plane.
Biden is expected to stay away from talking about changes to the missile defense strategy in Eastern Europe, designed to respond to a ballistic missile threat from elsewhere, not Russia.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk welcomed Biden to the chancellery in Warsaw on Tuesday morning. Before the two sat down at a table to talk, reporters heard Tusk call Biden’s mission “a very important visit.”
Biden is set to meet with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski and Estonian President Toomas Ilves before leaving Warsaw for Vilnius, Lithuania. There, Biden is scheduled to meet Wednesday with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite and Latvian President Andris Berzins.
Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/MCT