Washington (AP) — President Joe Biden is embarking on a trip to Europe, focusing on three countries to strengthen alliances that have faced challenges due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Upon his arrival in London at night, Biden will have his first meeting with King Charles III since his coronation. The highlight of the trip will be the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, where alliance leaders will discuss the ongoing conflict and update strategies to address Russian aggression.
The journey concludes in Helsinki, where Biden is anticipated to commemorate the growth of the alliance, welcoming Finland as the newest member of NATO.
According to Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, the purpose of the trip is to highlight the president’s global leadership. Let’s delve into Biden’s agenda and the challenges he will confront during his visit:
Biden is scheduled to land in London on Sunday night and has a busy day of meetings lined up for Monday.
Max Bergmann, the Europe Program leader at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former State Department official, expressed that there are numerous topics to discuss with the U.K.
Biden has a scheduled meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street. Sunak is facing an upcoming election before the end of next year, and his Conservative Party is currently trailing behind the opposition in opinion polls.
Despite Sunak’s uncertain political position, he has developed close relations with Biden, and this will mark their sixth meeting since Sunak assumed office in October of the previous year.
Bergmann noted that Sunak’s tenure has been a refreshing change after concerns were raised about the unpredictable nature of Boris Johnson, one of Sunak’s predecessors.
During his visit, Biden will also pay a visit to Windsor Castle, an esteemed royal residence located outside London, to meet with the king. Since Biden did not attend Charles’ coronation, his wife, Jill Biden, attended on his behalf. This encounter will serve as their first meeting since then.
The discussion between Biden and the king is expected to revolve around the crucial issue of climate change, which has been a focal point for both leaders, along with exploring financial avenues to support initiatives addressing this global challenge.
Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, will be the destination for Biden’s two-day visit, coinciding with the annual NATO summit. During his time there, he will engage in meetings with leaders and deliver a speech at Vilnius University.
The NATO alliance has experienced a renewed sense of purpose due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, prompting member countries to provide substantial military support to aid in repelling Russia’s invasion.
In defense of his administration’s decision, Biden justified the provision of cluster munitions to Ukraine, acknowledging it as a challenging choice. The move was deemed crucial to the ongoing fight, with assurances from Ukraine that these controversial bombs would be used cautiously. However, Biden can anticipate queries from allies regarding the rationale behind sending a weapon to Ukraine that is prohibited by over two-thirds of NATO members due to its history of causing significant civilian casualties.
According to Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, the upcoming summit will send a resolute message: NATO remains united, and Russia’s aggressive actions will not yield desired results.
However, NATO has faced challenges in bridging gaps on significant matters. While Finland was welcomed into the alliance this year, the membership of Sweden has been delayed due to objections from Turkey and Hungary.
Furthermore, there are disagreements regarding the pace at which an invitation should be extended to Ukraine to join NATO. Countries situated on NATO’s eastern flank advocate for a swift approach, considering it a means to deter Russian aggression. On the other hand, the United States and other nations advocate for a more cautious strategy.
Regarding leadership, one issue has been temporarily resolved. Stoltenberg’s term has been extended for a year since member nations could not reach a consensus on a new leader.
Senator Thom Tillis, who will be present at the summit, likened NATO to a gathering of numerous family members who engage in arguments and conflicts but ultimately remain unified.
“At the end of the day, you know you’re family,” stated Senator Tillis, a representative from North Carolina.
Tillis is spearheading a bipartisan delegation alongside Senator Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, who emphasizes the increasing strength of NATO.
According to Shaheen, NATO is currently the most formidable military alliance in history, and its power has only grown stronger due to the leadership of the United States and Secretary General Stoltenberg. She also attributes this strength to the threat posed by Vladimir Putin to all NATO allies, European countries, and the international order at large.
Helsinki Following a two-night stay in Vilnius, President Biden proceeds to Helsinki. This visit serves as a celebratory lap, while also highlighting unresolved matters.
In April, Finland became the 31st member of NATO, marking a significant shift from its history of nonalignment. This development underscores the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which have inadvertently backfired within Europe.
Finland’s intended NATO membership was initially tied to its neighbor Sweden, but progress has been hindered by the differing stances of Turkey and Hungary. Expanding NATO requires unanimous consent from all member states.
Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson recently visited the White House to meet with President Biden and maintain pressure for Sweden’s accession. However, it is unlikely that the issue will be resolved during the Vilnius visit.
The White House has designated President Biden’s visit to Helsinki as a “U.S.-Nordic Leaders Summit,” signifying a distinct occasion compared to the previous U.S. presidential visit to Helsinki five years ago.
During that prior visit, former President Donald Trump held a press conference with Putin, downplaying concerns regarding Russian interference in the U.S. election. In contrast, President Biden’s purpose in Helsinki is to showcase his administration’s unwavering stance against Moscow and the bolstering of Western defenses.