US President joins virtual Bucharest Nine summit – focus on Ukraine

11 May 2021

A virtual summit of the Bucharest Nine, a group of eastern European NATO states, took place in Bucharest on 10 May with a focus on the Black Sea region and Ukraine. The summit was jointly hosted by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and Poland's President Andrzej Duda. US President Joe Biden, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the presidents of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia were participants in the videoconference.

President Iohannis in his opening remarks called for a bigger allied military presence on the bloc's eastern flank: "As allies on the Eastern flank, we need to continue consolidating deterrence and defence. We all recently witnessed the worrying military build-up by Russia in our close neighbourhood, in the Black Sea, in and around Ukraine", he said. At the end of the summit, in a joint press statement with the President Duda, Iohannis emphasised that, "This is why I pleaded, including in the discussion with President Biden, for an increase in the allied military presence, including the United States, in Romania and in the south of the Eastern flank".

"President Biden expressed his support for enhancing NATO’s deterrence and defence posture, as well as the importance of allies increasing their resilience against harmful economic and political actions by our strategic competitors," the White House press office said in a statement.

Biden was also seeking closer cooperation with the nine states on challenges "including global health security, climate change, energy security, and global economic recovery".

Earlier this month, Washington said it could increase military assistance to Ukraine after Russia moved troops near its border with Ukraine's eastern Donbass region, where Ukrainian troops are in conflict with Moscow-backed separatists. Moscow announced the withdrawal of its forces on 22 April.

Stoltenberg did not publicly address the call for a larger presence in eastern Europe, but said in his opening remarks that Biden's participation demonstrated "the US commitment to rebuilding alliances and strengthening NATO".