Biden calls Putin’s suspension of nuclear treaty a ‘big mistake’

President Biden said on Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to withdraw from the only remaining nuclear arms control treaty with the United States was a “big mistake,” marking the latest salvo in a diplomatic standoff between Washington and Moscow as the president wraps up a four-year hiatus. – One day trip to the region.

Biden weighed in on the Kremlin’s announcement as he arrived at the presidential palace in Warsaw, where he met with leaders from countries on the eastern flank of the NATO alliance amid concerns over Russia’s ongoing assault on Ukraine.

The Bucharest Nine – Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia – was formed after Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Leaders fear that a Russian victory in Ukraine could spur Putin into invading other countries on Europe’s eastern fringes.

Putin announced this week during his annual parliamentary address that he is suspending cooperation with the New START treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons, escalating tensions with Washington as he accused Ukraine and Western allies of starting the war. The Russian leader’s announcement came just hours before Biden spoke at the Royal Castle in Warsaw to mark the anniversary of Moscow’s attack on Ukraine a year ago.

“It was a big mistake,” Biden said with a black spot on his forehead to commemorate Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

Biden extended the New START treaty with Russia for another five years when he took office, arguing that it was in the security interests of both countries.

The meeting puts an exclamation mark on Biden’s trip to Poland and a surprise stop in Ukraine to highlight the continued commitment of the US and Western allies to support Kyiv in the face of Russian aggression as the war drags on for a second year.

“You are at the forefront of our collective defense,” Biden told a group of leaders. “And you know better than anyone what is at stake in this conflict. Not only for Ukraine, but for the freedom of democracies across Europe and around the world.”

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said the war “brought nothing but suffering and despair, killing and displacing millions of Ukrainians.”

“We, the leaders of the eastern flank, have an obligation to stand firmly on guard for our peace,” Iohannis told the crowd.