Making a financial argument, Vice President Joe Biden stressed America's wherewithal to stick by NATO allies in the face of an emboldened Russia moving forward with the annexation of Crimea.
Vice President Joe Biden speaks to the media after talks with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk in Warsaw, Poland, Tuesday, March 18, 2014. Biden arrived in Warsaw for consultations with Prime Minister Donald Tusk and President Bronislaw Komorowski, hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a draft bill for the annexation of Crimea, one of a flurry of steps to formally take over the Black Sea peninsula. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
“You have an ally whose budget is larger than the next 10 nations in the world combined, so don’t worry about where we are,” Biden said Tuesday during his visit with Polish President Bronislaw Komorowsk in Warsaw.
Biden, who is traveling through Europe to meet with leaders of Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, of course didn't mention that the bigger U.S. budget is based on borrowed money with a $17 trillion national debt.
Komorowski said that Russia’s aggression is no surprise because Russian President Vladimir Putin increased the country's defense budget by 400 percent over the last eight years. The Polish leader said some NATO members had decreased their budgets over that same time period.
Asked about the Polish leader's comments, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday that this is no reason to reconsider the proposal for scaling back the U.S. military budget.
“I can certainly understand the concern and suspicion on the party of Polish officials with what Russia is doing in Ukraine,” Carney said. “I would say if you look at overall military spending for this country from 10 years ago, you would see dramatic increases even as we now rationalize our military spending, having ended one war and being in the process of ending another.”
Voters in Crimea on Sunday approved by an overwhelmingly large margin a referendum to leave Ukraine and rejoin Russia. Putin, who has already moved military into the area, moved almost immediately on Monday to annex the region.
As a result, the United States imposed sanctions on seven individuals, including close advisers to Putin, but there are no sanctions on Russian banks or energy firms. The European Union imposed its own sanctions on 21 people.
Noting Poland's historical role in the Cold War, Komorowski spoke about the country's resistances of Soviet aggression in the 1980s.
“What happened in those days that was helpful was a change in Russian oil and gas prices, combined with arms race,” Komorowski said.
Citing Poland's success, Biden said countries such as Ukraine that support self determination and democracy are “bound to succeed.”
“Those that bet instead on aggression and fear-mongering are bound to fail,” Biden said.
During his next stop, military spending was also an issue. When visiting the Estonian President Toomas Ilves, Biden said, “Estonia is one of the few countries that has committed 2 percent of its GDP to defense, year after year.”
Ilves said, “the Ukrainian crisis is something that causes concern for all people.” He added, “the kind of behavior we’ve seen is dangerous for the world.”