Biden Braces NATO for Long Conflict With Russia, Making Cold War Parallel

“America never recognized the Soviet occupation of the Baltics,” Mr. Biden told the cheering crowd. And he made it clear that, in turn, it would never recognize Mr. Putin’s territorial annexation.

Mr. Biden knew those comparisons would have a particular resonance in this graceful Baltic capital: Lithuania was part of the Russian empire starting in 1795, and after two decades of independence, it was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1940, seized by Nazi Germany in 1941 and recaptured by the Soviets in 1944. It regained independence in the early 1990s, and became a NATO member in 2004.

During the NATO meeting here, pro-Ukrainian messages flashed on city buses, Vilnius residents put placards with epithets about Mr. Putin in their windows, and a huge crowd gathered to welcome Mr. Zelensky when he arrived. A packed crowd gathered to hear Mr. Biden speak, including children leaning out of windows to watch him.

Mr. Biden framed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as part of a global challenge facing democratic societies. He said the world was at an “inflection point,” where it must choose between democracy and autocracy. The message has origins in his 2020 campaign, but he has leaned into it even more to persuade Americans that they should care about a war thousands of miles from home.

He emphasized the need to protect the Indo-Pacific, a region crucial to the United States’ growing competition with China, in a nod to Asian allies that have helped aid Ukraine and isolate Russia. And Mr. Biden said the world would need to address “the accelerating threat of climate change,” another key focus of the NATO summit.

But there was also a sense at the meeting that NATO is entering a protracted struggle with Russia. The communiqué issued on Tuesday described Russian advances in nuclear weapons, space vehicles, cyberwarfare and disinformation, and committed members to new spending and new partnerships to counter it in all those realms.

Not once in their public comments did NATO leaders discuss talks with Russia for a cease-fire or Korea-style armistice — a silent recognition that Ukraine insists on retaking far more of its territory before negotiating, and that Mr. Putin has signaled no willingness to pull back.

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