Joe Biden, President of the United States, addresses the people of Lithuania in the courtyard of Vilnius University. He emphasised the Lithuanian struggle for freedom and the difficult road ahead, but the most important thing is unity, Jūratė Važgauskaitė is writing at the tv3.lt news portal.
“The US has never acknowledged that the Soviets occupied Lithuania. It has never acknowledged the occupiers”. He spoke passionately about freedom and the past.
“You and your brothers and sisters in Estonia and Latvia helped to end an era of division through the power of union”, Biden said in the courtyard of Vilnius University.
“The Baltic Way, not the Berlin Wall, has become a symbol for the future of Europe. And later, when Soviet tanks once again tried to deny your independence, the people of Vilnius said – no, no, no. And in January 1991, tens of thousands of citizens, unarmed and unbowed, stood as one to defend the TV tower, the Supreme Soviet, and to defend freedom,” said the US President.
Before his presidency, he recalled what it was like in Lithuania almost ten years ago.
“I was in Lithuania in 2014, and I see how things have changed. I am attending the historic NATO summit, we have a new member, Finland, and we hope that Sweden will soon be a member,” Biden said.
He also mentioned Putin in his speech, who, according to the US President, will not go away.
“When Putin and his relentless lust for power and land started this brutal war in Ukraine, he expected NATO to collapse. He expected NATO to fail,” Biden told a crowd of thousands at Vilnius University at the end of the Alliance Summit. – He thought our unity would crumble at the first attempt. He thought democratic leaders would be weak.”
“But he was wrong”, the US President added. He said that Putin still does not understand the mistake he made.
“Putin still wrongly thinks he can survive Ukraine. He cannot believe that this is their land, their frost, their future, and after all this time, Putin still doubts our staying power,” the President of the United States said. He is still guessing wrong about his belief that the unity of the United States, of our partners and allies, will break down”.
“He still doesn’t understand that our commitment to our values, to our freedom, is something that he will never, ever overcome. This is who we are”, the US President said.
Of course, the US President also spoke about Ukraine, assuring that the commitment will not waver and the resolve will not falter.
“I say again – we will not waver. Our commitment to Ukraine will not waver. I underline that. Our commitment to Ukraine will not waver. We will stand for freedom today, tomorrow, as long as it takes,” Biden told the crowd in the courtyard of Vilnius University.
He also stressed that the war in Ukraine must end on just terms.
“Sovereignty, the integrity of the territory, these are the two pillars on which peaceful relations between peoples rest”, the US President said.
The historic speech of the US President is also being broadcast on outdoor screens outside the event and can be watched live by the media.
“I am touched and not at all surprised that President Biden has chosen to address Lithuanians at this important time, as the NATO Summit is taking place in Vilnius. Lithuania is a close ally and partner, and the bond between our countries is stronger than ever. I look forward to joining the Lithuanian people at this historic event,” US Ambassador Robert S. Gilchrist told the media.
“We are proud that the President of the United States has chosen Vilnius University for his important speech. This underlines that the University is a place not only for science but also for civic gatherings, the most important debates and events in the country and the world,” said Prof. Rimvydas Petrauskas, Rector of Vilnius University.
Many people wanted to get to the event, and they had been gathering in the Old Town of the capital since noon, although they did not start to enter the University’s large courtyard until 4.30 in the afternoon.
Due to traffic restrictions during the NATO Summit, access to the event and the surrounding areas was limited to walking. The US Secret Service carried out an airport-type security check in the vicinity of the event.
The President of the United States will address the people of Lithuania for only the second time in Lithuania’s history after an absence of more than twenty years. In 2002, the then-head of state, George Bush, visited Lithuania. In Vilnius’ Town Hall Square, he uttered the historic phrase: “Every enemy of Lithuania will now also be considered an enemy of the United States”, which was a ringing endorsement of Lithuania’s invitation to join NATO, which had just been received.
Mr Biden attends the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. Before the start of the summit, he met with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda and reassured him of the US defence commitment to NATO, to the Baltic States and to Lithuania in particular.