U.S. President Joe Biden was scheduled to take part virtually in a meeting of the presidents of countries on NATO's eastern flank hosted by Romania on May 10.
Biden will speak with the leaders of the countries known as the Bucharest Nine (B9) and will "convey his desire for closer cooperation with our Allies in Central Europe and the Baltic and Black Sea regions on the full range of global challenges," the White House said. The members of the B9 are Romania, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Most share concerns about Moscow's attempts to reassert its influence over their region since Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and threw its military, political, and economic support behind separatists in parts of eastern Ukraine. Romanian President Klaus Iohannis said on Twitter that he was glad to be welcoming Biden, and that the meeting was in preparation for a full NATO summit next month. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg will also participate, Iohannis said.
The meeting, co-hosted with Polish President Andrzej Duda, who arrived in Bucharest, included discussions on security, defense, and deterrence in the region.
Duda said at a news briefing before the meeting that the political situation in Belarus was a matter of concern for the B9 countries and Ukraine was also on the agenda.
He said he was relieved that Russia had pulled back many of the forces it had recently built up near the Ukrainian border, saying he believed it reduced the risk of another Russian invasion. "But there is no doubt that the situation there is very difficult, that Ukrainian territory is occupied," Duda said at the briefing alongside Iohannis. "Neither Europe nor the world can take their eyes off this part of our continent," Duda said. "We must all absolutely support Ukraine on the one hand, but on the other hand, we must also guard our security because this is our eastern flank, both for Romania and for Poland." Iohannis and Duda will attend a military exercise on May 11 involving Polish and Romanian troops called Justice Sword 21. It is to take place in Smardan, a village in eastern Romania.