Nato eastern members alerted to Russian threat, Polish president says

The Polish president appealed for continuing the Nato enlargement policy. Silviu Matei/PAP/EPA

The presidents of the Bucharest Nine, a group of countries forming Nato's eastern flank, point out "permanent threat" from Russia, Polish President Andrzej Duda said after the group's summit in Bucharest on Monday.

The Monday meeting was presided over by Duda and his Romanian counterpart, Klaus Iohannis. The meeting was also attended, in a virtual format, by US President Joe Biden and Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Duda said that Biden in his speech confirmed the presence of US forces in the eastern flank of Nato.

"I'm pleased that our voice, the voice of unity, was once against heard from the Bucharest Nine (B9) countries," Duda said after the summit.

He went on to say that all speeches by B9 presidents included references to "a clear and obvious perception... of a permanent threat" from the Kremlin.

In this context, Duda recalled Moscow's involvement in the conflicts in Georgia and Ukraine.

Referring to the situation in Belarus, where the country's strongman Alexander Lukashenko has brutally suppressed mass anti-government protests, the Polish president said there was a question of "what kind of Belarus we'll be dealing with in the next years, whether it will be a sovereign and independent Belarus or not."

The Polish president also appealed for continuing the Nato enlargement policy.

"We, who just decades ago were stuck behind the Iron Curtain, who looked at the free world with envy, are now saying: the door to Nato should remain open," Duda said.

The Nato secretary general commented on the Alliance's upcoming summit, scheduled for June. Jens Stoltenberg said the meeting will be an opportunity to strengthen unity between Europe and North America and prepare the alliance for future challenges.

The Romanian president pointed out Moscow's involvement in eastern Europe, saying that "Russia's destabilising activities in the region are a cause for concern and they strengthen the sense of insecurity.

"The worrying security situation in the Black Sea... has proven that we need to maintain vigilance, so Nato must continue to bolster its deterrence and defence activities, especially on Nato's eastern flank, in a united way: from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea," Iohannis continued.

Iohannis also called for bigger Nato support for Eastern Partnership countries.

The Eastern Partnership is an EU undertaking aimed at increasing contacts between the bloc and its six eastern neighbours that were formerly Soviet republics, namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.

The Bucharest Nine is a Polish-Romanian initiative aimed at coordinating the security positions of countries on the eastern Nato flank. The first Bucharest Nine meeting took place in 2014 in Warsaw.