Obama reaffirms US and Nato support for Ukraine

US president and other leaders celebrate 25th anniversary of Polish independence

President Barack Obama shaking hands with Ukraine’s president-elect Petro Poroshenko during their meeting in Warsaw yesterday. The US leader told reporters the billionaire industrialist was a “wise choice” by Ukrainian voters and a clear signal against violence. Photograph: Reuters

President Barack Obama shaking hands with Ukraine’s president-elect Petro Poroshenko during their meeting in Warsaw yesterday. The US leader told reporters the billionaire industrialist was a “wise choice” by Ukrainian voters and a clear signal against violence. Photograph: Reuters

Thu, Jun 5, 2014, 01:00

US president Barack Obama has assured Poland and the Baltic countries that the US and Nato will stand by them in the face of “dark tactics” in neighbouring Ukraine.

Mr Obama and other world leaders were in Warsaw yesterday to celebrate 25 years since Polish voters backed the Solidarity movement in a landslide election that hastened the end of communist rule across central Europe.

“I know that, throughout history, the Polish people were abandoned by friends when you needed them most so I’ve come to Warsaw today . . . to reaffirm our unwavering commitment to Poland’s security,” he said.

“We have a solemn duty – a binding [Nato] treaty obligation – to defend your territorial integrity. And we will. We stand together, now and forever, for your freedom is ours.”

The US leader garnered an enthusiastic welcome for describing the 1989 transition to democracy in central Europe as “not inevitable . . . but the culmination of centuries of Polish struggle”.

Mr Obama warned that “further Russian provocations” in Ukraine would bring “more isolation and costs” for Moscow.

“After investing so much blood and treasure to bring Europe together, how can we allow the dark tactics of the 20th century to define this new century?” he said.

Linking Poland’s struggle for independence in 1989 with the Ukraine crisis, Mr Obama demanded that Ukraine be left to choose its own future “for itself and by itself”.

“I met with president-elect Poroshenko this morning, and I told him that, just as free nations offered support and assistance to Poland in your transition to democracy, we stand with Ukrainians now,” he said.

The US leader told reporters the billionaire industrialist was a “wise choice” by Ukrainian voters and a clear signal against violence.

The US leader said he had offered to help Ukraine train police but urged further economic reforms and steps to reduce Ukraine’s dependence on Russian gas.

German chancellor Angela Merkel urged Russian president Vladimir Putin to use his influence on Ukraine separatists to end their violence or face a third round of sanctions. She defended Russia’s exclusion from the G8 after its annexation of Crimea, saying the group was an alliance “of economics, but also values”.