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World/National News

March 19, 2014

Pushing back on Russia, Biden vows more sanctions

(Continued)

“This trial, this challenge that we are facing will not be for a month or a year,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said after meeting with Biden. “We are facing a strategic perspective for many years to come.”

Biden said the goal is for NATO to emerge from this crisis stronger and more unified than ever. While in Europe, Biden planned to discuss what additional steps the U.S. can take to shore up security for Poland and the Baltics, such as increased training, said a senior administration official, who wasn’t authorized to comment by name and demanded anonymity.

At Warsaw’s request, the U.S. last week sent some 300 air troops and a dozen F-16 fighters to Poland for joint training in a show of military support for a key ally.

Also on the agenda: long-term energy security in Europe, a key factor that has confounded the West’s attempts to display a united front in punishing Russia. Much of Europe is heavily dependent on Russian natural gas, and European countries have major economic interests in Russia that could be in jeopardy if Moscow retaliates with sanctions of its own.

Republican lawmakers and a handful of European countries, including Poland, have urged the White House to accelerate approval of U.S. natural gas exports, but the White House has insisted that would take too long and says Russia is too dependent on gas revenues to cut off Europe.

One option that apparently isn’t on the table: rethinking the U.S. posture on missile defense in the region. Poland is still displeased about Obama’s 2009 decision to cancel the final phase of a defense system sorely Poland wanted as a hedge against Russian missiles. Biden said the smaller, phased-in system Obama chose instead is on schedule for completion.

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