The US is ready to defend ?every single inch? of NATO territory, the American leader said
US President Joe Biden on Friday directly addressed his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, urging him not to "misunderstand" that Washington and NATO are ready to defend "every single inch" of NATO territory.
Biden's remarks came as a response to a speech that Putin delivered earlier on Friday before signing treaties paving the way for four former Ukrainian regions to join Russia, a move the US and its allies condemned in the strongest of terms.
"America is fully prepared with our NATO allies to defend every single inch of NATO territory. Mr. Putin, don't misunderstand what I'm saying. Every inch," Biden said without elaborating about which specific statements by the Russian leader he was responding to. In his speech Putin, among other things, blamed the US for creating "a precedent" by using nuclear weapons against Japan in 1945.
Speaking at the White House, the US president stressed that Putin's "reckless words and threats" would not intimidate America and its allies.
"Putin's actions are a sign he's struggling," Biden said. He was referring to referendums that resulted in the launch of the formal accession process for the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics, as well as Kherson and Zaporozhye Regions.
"The United States is never going to recognize this. And quite frankly, the world's not going to recognize it either," Biden said, adding that Putin "can't seize his neighbor's territory and get away with it."
The US president's statement marks yet another round of mutual warnings between Russia and the West.
Last week, the Russian president said that his country is now fighting "the entire military machine of the collective West" and emphasized that if needed Moscow "will certainly make use of all weapon systems available" to protect its territorial integrity and its people.
Moscow also made it clear that, once the former Ukrainian regions become part of Russia, it will consider Kiev's military attacks on them as acts of aggression against the Russian Federation.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, meanwhile, warned Russia of "severe consequences" if it uses nuclear weapons on Ukraine. He has also said on multiple occasions that NATO would not tolerate any attack on "allied sovereignty or territorial integrity."
While Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky admitted in March that Kiev was unlikely to become part of NATO, on Friday he announced that the country was filing an expedited application to join the military alliance. However, hours later, Washington said that it is "not the time" to accept Ukraine into the bloc.