Joe Biden has said Vladimir Putin expected his enemies to “roll over” when he invaded Ukraine but was met with the “iron will” of its allies – as the Russian president suspended a key nuclear treaty with the US after accusing the West of starting the war.
The US president gave a historic speech from the gardens of Warsaw’s Royal Castle in Poland just hours after Mr Putin delivered a state of the nation address in Russia.
Mr Biden’s speech also came a day after he made a highly-secretive and historic visit to Kyiv in Ukraine.
“I can report: Kyiv stands strong, Kyiv stands proud, it stands tall and, most important, it stands free,” Mr Biden said this evening.
Mr Putin had earlier blamed the West for starting the war in Ukraine and claimed his country responded with force “in order to stop it”.
He added that Ukraine was in talks with the West about weapon supplies before Russia invaded its neighbour on 24 February last year.
“I would like to emphasise when Russia tried to find a peaceful solution they were playing with the lives of people and they were playing a dirty game,” Mr Putin said.
Biden says ‘Democracy was too strong’
Both world leaders have spoken as the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaches.
Mr Biden used his speech to repeatedly accuse Mr Putin of underestimating Ukraine and the strength of NATO before ordering the invasion.
The US president said: “When Russia invaded it wasn’t just Ukraine being tested, the whole world faced a test for the ages… all democracies were being tested.
“The questions we faced were as simple as they were profound. Would we respond or would we look the other way?
“Would we be strong or would we be weak?”
‘Democracy was too strong’
Mr Biden continued: “One year later we know the answer.
“We did respond, we would be strong, we would be united, and the world would not look the other way.”
Mr Biden said: “President Putin ordered his tanks to roll into Ukraine, he thought we would roll over. He was wrong.
“The Ukrainian people were too brave. America, Europe, a coalition of nations from the Atlantic to the Pacific, we were too unified.
“Democracy was too strong. Instead of the easy victory he perceived and predicted, Putin left with burnt out tanks and Russia’s forces in disarray.
“He thought he would get the Finlandization of NATO, instead he got the NATO-isation of Finland and Sweden.”
The term Finlandization has been used to refer to the decision of a country not to challenge a more powerful neighbour in foreign politics while maintaining national sovereignty.
“He thought NATO would fracture and divide. Instead, NATO was more united and more unified ever than ever before,” Mr Biden continued.
“He thought autocrats like himself were tough and leaders of democracy were soft, and then he met the iron will of America and nations everywhere who refused to accept a world governed by fear and force.”
Mr Biden continued: “President Putin is confronted with something today that he didn’t think was possible a year ago.
“The democracies of the world have grown stronger not weaker, but the autocrats of the world have grown weaker not stronger.”
Mr Biden also said Russia had committed “abhorrent” crimes in Ukraine by targeting civilians with “death and destruction” and have used rape as a “weapon of war”.
He also accused Russian forces of stealing Ukrainian children and bombing maternity hospitals and orphanages..
Mr Biden also said the US’ support for Ukraine will never waver.
Putin accuses Ukraine and US of ‘playing a dirty game’
In his address hours before Mr Biden’s, Mr Putin said Russia decided to “protect its people and history” by conducting a “special military operation step-by-step” – as he warned that Moscow will “continue to resolve the objectives that are before us”.
The Russian president has always referred to the invasion as a “special military operation” since it began last year.
“I would like to repeat, they started the war and we used force in order to stop it,” he said in the address.
Mr Putin also announced that Russia was suspending its participation in a key nuclear treaty with the US which limits the two sides’ strategic nuclear arsenals.
The New START treaty with the US caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads that the US and Russia can deploy.
Mr Putin said Russia was not fully withdrawing from the treaty and said Moscow must stand ready to resume nuclear weapons tests if the US does so.
NATO is most ‘consequential alliance in history’
Meanwhile, earlier in his visit to Poland today, Mr Biden reaffirmed the United States’ dedication to European security as he met Polish President Andrzej Duda during a series of consultations with allies to prepare for an even more complicated stage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“We have to have security in Europe,” he said at the presidential palace in Warsaw on Tuesday.
“It’s that basic, that simple, that consequential.”
Mr Biden described NATO as “maybe the most consequential alliance in history” and he said it is “stronger than it’s ever been” despite Mr Putin’s hopes it would fracture over the war in Ukraine.
Mr Duda praised Mr Biden’s trip to Kyiv as “spectacular”, saying it “boosted (the) morale of Ukraine’s defenders”.
In his speech in Kyiv on Monday, Mr Biden said Mr Putin had believed Ukraine was “weak and the West was divided” and “thought he could outlast us” but added – “he was dead wrong”.
Mr Zelenskyy said he discussed long-range weapons with Mr Biden and described negotiations as “very fruitful”.
The US president had travelled to Kyiv on a 10-hour train ride from Poland after a journey from Washington DC that was shrouded in secrecy.
The only two journalists allowed on the trip were sworn to secrecy and had their phones taken off them.
An email telling the journalists when to arrive at the relevant air base was disguised as an invite to a golf “tourney”.