President Biden pledged Wednesday that the United States would “defend literally every inch of NATO” in the case of a Russian attack on NATO territory. Biden wrapped up a three-day diplomatic trip after meeting in Poland with leaders of the alliance’s easternmost countries, which are particularly concerned about Moscow’s aggression. The gathering follows Biden’s unannounced visit to Kyiv on Monday and comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the suspension of Russia’s participation in its last remaining nuclear pact with the United States as the two leaders underscored their growing division in dueling speeches.
In Moscow, China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, met with Putin, as the first anniversary of the start of Russia’s war in Ukraine approaches. Wang hailed relations between the two countries on Wednesday, saying they remained strong and would “not be overpowered” by “coercion or pressure” from other parties. China has said it is neutral in the Russia-Ukraine war but has also regularly given diplomatic support to Russia. U.S. and NATO officials have expressed concern that China could start providing other support, including weapons, for Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Putin appeared at a stadium in Moscow on Wednesday for a rally and concert titled “Glory to Defenders of the Motherland,” where he honored Russian soldiers before a crowd of tens of thousands, waving Russian flags and singing along to patriotic songs.
Here’s the latest on the war and its impact around the globe.
What are Articles 4 and 5 of NATO’s founding treaty and why do they matter?
- Biden met with leaders of the Bucharest Nine, countries on NATO’s eastern flank. The group comprises Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. “You know better than anyone what’s at stake in this conflict, not just for Ukraine but for the freedom of democracies,” Biden told the assembled leaders, adding that the United States considered Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty — which says an attack on any NATO member would be considered an attack on all — to be a “sacred commitment.”
- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned B9 leaders that Putin is “not preparing for peace” a year after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. “… So we must sustain and step up our support for Ukraine. We must give Ukraine what they need to prevail,” he said. “We must break the cycle of Russian aggression.”
- China-Russia relations had stood the test of an unstable international situation and remained “as stable as Mount Tai” — a Chinese idiom for rock-solid — Wang said Wednesday during his meeting with Putin. Earlier, Wang met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said that “relations between Russia and China are developing dynamically, despite the turbulence,” with both countries “ready to defend each other’s interests.” Chinese leader Xi Jinping is expected to visit Russia this year.
- Later Wednesday, Putin briefly addressed cheering, flag-waving Russians at a mass rally at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, extolling Russia’s military in an event designed to unite the nation around a long war against Ukraine. In the rare public appearance, Putin, wearing a bulky jacket and flanked by members of Russia’s armed forces, led the audience chanting, “Russia! Russia!” Nationalistic songs and poems performed at the event asserted that Russia was winning the war and would fight on until victory, while a year of military failures and massive military casualties was quietly brushed aside.
- Russia’s State Duma passed a law Wednesday suspending the country’s participation in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Putin announced Tuesday that Russia would be suspending its participation in New START, the only remaining arms control agreement between Russia and the United States. Putin said Russia will not “withdraw” from the treaty but will not allow NATO countries to inspect its nuclear arsenal. Biden told a reporter ahead of meetings in Warsaw the Russian move was a “big mistake,” CNN reported.
- Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said Russia would disappear if it lost its war in Ukraine. “If Russia stops the special military operation without winning, there will be no Russia; it will be torn apart,” he wrote on Telegram on Wednesday, using the Kremlin-approved term for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ensuing war. “If the U.S. stops supplying weapons to the Kyiv regime, the war is over.” Medvedev, now the deputy chair of Russia’s security council, also warned, “If the U.S. wants to defeat Russia, we have the right to defend ourselves with any weapon, including nuclear weapons.” Moscow has repeatedly pointed to its nuclear arsenal as a threat and falsely accused Ukraine and the West of provoking its invasion of its neighbor.
- Four strikes targeted the city of Kharkiv on Wednesday, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said on Telegram, noting that explosions hit industrial facilities and that injuries were reported. Fighting rages in the Donetsk areas of Bakhmut, Lyman, Avdiivka and elsewhere, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech late Tuesday, describing “constant, intense assaults.”
- At least 8,000 civilians have been confirmed killed and at least 13,000 injured in the war over the past year, the U.N. human rights agency said Tuesday. About 61 percent of victims were men, and nearly 490 of those killed were children, according to the agency. “Our data are only the tip of the iceberg,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk said in a release.
- One in 10 of Ukraine’s hospitals have been damaged by wartime attacks, according to a report by Physicians for Human Rights, a U.S. nonprofit group. In Russian-held territory, many health workers also have been imprisoned, taken hostage or forced to work under Russian occupation, the report said. The World Health Organization has verified 802 attacks on health care and 101 deaths of health workers and patients, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a Wednesday media briefing.
- Ukraine’s Education Ministry urged schools to operate remotely from Wednesday to Friday “as a preventive measure before the anniversary of the start of Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine.” In a statement, the ministry said the shift to remote schooling would help “ensure the life and health of all participants of the educational process.” It added over the past year of war, 3,128 educational institutions have been damaged — with 441 totally destroyed.
- Russia recently notified the United States that it would carry out an intercontinental ballistic missile test, U.S. officials said Tuesday night. Moscow told Washington that it planned to carry out the test in accordance with the New START nuclear accord, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “Such testing is routine and was not a surprise, and we did not deem the test a threat to the United States or its allies,” one official said. U.S. officials said Wednesday that Russia attempted the test on Feb. 18, two days before Biden visited Ukraine.
- Russia, China and South Africa kicked off a trilateral naval exercise with an opening ceremony in the South African port of Richards Bay on Wednesday, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a Telegram post. The commander in chief of Russia’s navy, Adm. Nikolai Evmenov, said the Russian navy is “deeply interested in strengthening naval cooperation between Russian, Chinese and South African sailors,” the statement said.
- Zelensky met with a delegation of congressional Republicans on Tuesday, as well as an Italian delegation headed by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. Italy offered a “new package of defense support, including air defense,” he said in his nightly address. Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told journalists during his visit to Kyiv on Tuesday that he was seeing “increasing momentum” in Washington toward sending Ukraine F-16 fighter jets and long-range Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) rockets, adding: “In any event, we can start training pilots right now so they’re ready,” CNN reported. He pledged to be a “very strong voice” on providing the advanced weaponry and equipment. But members of his party, which controls the House of Representatives, are divided over how much military aid to give to Ukraine.
- New polling by the European Council on Foreign Relations found that half of those surveyed in the United States, Britain and nine European Union countries view Russia as an “adversary.” Only 4 percent in India and China said the same. About a quarter of those surveyed in India and Turkey — and more than 40 percent in China and Russia — said that Europe is supporting Ukraine to “defend Western dominance. “There is, of course, a long historical track record of Western myopia, misadventure and meddling that drives such views,” writes The Post’s Ishaan Tharoor in an analysis of the survey.
From our correspondents
A year in the trenches has hardened Ukraine’s president: Zelensky came into office thinking that he could achieve peace with Putin, but a year ago this week, he found himself hiding in a safe room in Kyiv at the start of experiences that have transformed him into a globally known, hard-bitten wartime leader, Paul Sonne and David L. Stern report.
“Of course, we all have changed, including the president,” said Andriy Yermak, the head of the Ukrainian presidential office. “The ordeals that have marked his tenure — they can’t but change a person. Has he become harder? Of course, he has. Has he become stronger? From my point of view, he was always strong.”
Christian Shepherd, Robyn Dixon and Natalia Abbakumova contributed to this report