Joe Biden Told Eastern Europe Something That’s Simply Not True

Vice President Joe Biden said Tuesday that he led the charge to include Poland in NATO when he was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a claim that is simply not true.

Vice President Joe Biden gives a joint statement with Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite and Latvia’s President Andris Berzins at the presidential palace in Vilnius, Lithuania, Wednesday, March 19, 2014. Biden has arrived in Lithuania to reassure Baltic leaders that the U.S. is committed to defending its NATO allies in the face of Russia’s intervention in Crimea. (AP)

The problem with the vice president’s NATO remarks — which some news organizations have characterized as a “gaffe” — is that he served as chairman from 2001 to 2003.

Poland joined NATO in 1999.

“Fifteen years ago, I was honored, as the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, to lead the fight for Poland’s admission into NATO,” Biden said in Warsaw, Poland, during a tour in Eastern Europe aimed at calming fears over Russia’s recent actions in Ukraine.

Bloomberg was the first outlet to report Biden’s apparent memory lapse.

Former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) was actually chairman of the Senate committee when Poland was added to NATO, The Hill noted: It was Helms who started floor debate over whether Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary should be added to the group.

To his credit, Biden did lead the Democratic Senate minority in approving the resolution that added the counties to NATO’s roster, having changed his earlier position against growing the group to expand the West’s “nuclear umbrella.”

As co-chairman of the Senate NATO observer group, Biden traveled to Eastern Europe and compiled a report about his experience, cataloging several arguments for why new countries should be added to NATO.

“The committee, under Chairman Helms’ leadership, has been holding a series of comprehensive hearings since October on the pros and cons of enlarging NATO,” Biden told the Senate on Feb. 11, 1998. “For 40 years, the United States loudly proclaimed its solidarity with the captive nations of Central and Eastern Europe who were under the heel of communist oppressors. Now that most of them have cast off their shackles, it is our responsibility, in my view, to live up to our pledges to readmit them into the West through NATO and the European Union as they qualify.”

The Senate voted 80-19 in 1998 to add Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to NATO.

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