WASHINGTON – President Biden shored up Western allies’ support for Ukraine on Wednesday, meeting with leaders of several European countries who are uniting to keep in check any further Russian incursions.

Biden spoke with the leaders of the so-called Bucharest Nine, which comprises Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia. The nine NATO countries in eastern Europe have spoken out against Russian aggression on the continent, with the group initially forming after Russia’s annexation of Crimea. 

“As NATO’s eastern flank, you’re the frontlines of our collective defense. And you know better than anyone what’s at stake in this conflict not just for Ukraine, but for the freedom of democracies throughout Europe and around the world,” Biden said in his comments to the leaders of the B9.

Notably, on the same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with China’s top foreign policy official Wang Yi, indicating that Putin is looking for new allies as the war enters its second year.

This also follows Putin’s announcement on Tuesday that Russia would cease its participation in the New START treaty, accusing “the U.S. and its NATO allies of openly declaring the goal of Russia’s defeat in Ukraine.” Signed in 2010, the treaty prevents the U.S. and Russia from having more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers.

Biden is finishing his trip to Europe, which included a surprise visit to Kyiv, where he met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and called the continued fighting in Ukraine a “brutal and unjust war.”

On Wednesday Biden praised the nine NATO nations for standing united against Russian aggression.

“Today, as we approach the one-year anniversary of Russia’s further invasion, it’s even more important that we continue to stand together,” said Biden. 

The Bucharest Nine leaders joined Biden’s commitment to support Ukraine and condemned the assault and conflict nearly a year after Russia’s troop invasion of Ukraine.

“The war has brought nothing but suffering and despair, [the] killing and displacing of millions of Ukranians, unprecedented destruction and uncertainty. We, the leaders of the Eastern Flank, have the duty to stand firm in defense of our peace,” said Romanian President Klaus Iohannis. “We must continue to stand firm in delivering on our commitments to support Ukraine for as long as it needs to win this war.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who joined the meeting with Biden and the B9 leaders, praised Biden’s visit to Kyiv, saying the trip “sent a clear message of steadfast support to Ukraine and America’s ironclad commitment to the security of Europe.”

He also emphasized the importance of protecting Europe from future Russian attacks.

“We cannot allow Russia to continue to chip away at European security. We must break the cycle of Russian aggression,” Stoltenberg said. “NATO allies have never been more united. We’ll protect every inch of allied territory based on a logical commitment to defend each other. One for all, and all for one.”