Biden And Nato Allies Talk About The Next Stage In The Fight Against Russia

President Joe Biden of the United States and Western allies met for the first of three summits on Thursday, with the goal of increasing pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin over his war in Ukraine while also dealing with the economic and security consequences that have spread across Europe and the world. Biden and other NATO leaders gathered at the alliance’s headquarters, where they posed for a group photo to commemorate the emergency meeting before disappearing behind closed doors for their summit, which was anticipated to last several hours. The European diplomatic capital will host an emergency NATO summit, as well as a gathering of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and a summit of the European Union’s 27 members, on Thursday. Biden expects to attend all three sessions and deliver a press conference at the conclusion of the day.

Biden arrived late Wednesday, hoping to persuade allies to impose more sanctions on Russia, whose economy has already been damaged by a constant stream of bans, boycotts, and penalties over the previous four weeks. While the West has been generally united in its response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there is widespread recognition that unity will be put to the test when the costs of war bite into the global economy. The strengthening of forces along NATO’s eastern flank, which will almost definitely continue for at least the next 5-10 years if Russia is to be properly deterred, will put a strain on national budgets. “We need to invest more because we need to do more.” Before chairing the security alliance’s meeting, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg stated, “There is a new sense of urgency, and I anticipate the leaders to agree to expedite defense investments.”

“What we would like to hear is that the resolve and solidarity that we’ve seen for the past month will endure for as long as it takes,” Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, told reporters on board Air Force One en route to Brussels. The war-exacerbated energy crisis will be a hot topic at the European Council summit, with leaders from Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece hoping for an immediate, coordinated response from the entire bloc. EU officials have stated that they will seek US assistance in developing a strategy to replenish natural gas storage facilities in time for next winter, as well as a joint purchase of gas by the bloc.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has denied calls for a boycott of Russian energy imports, claiming that it would harm his country’s economy significantly. Scholz is under pressure from environmentalists to wean Germany from Russian energy swiftly, but he says it would have to be done gradually. “To do so from day to day would mean plunging our country and the rest of Europe into recession,” Scholz warned on Wednesday. Poland and other NATO countries on the eastern flank will be looking for answers on how the US and other European nations can help them deal with their rising concerns about Russian aggression as well as a burgeoning migration issue. In recent weeks, more than 3.5 million migrants have fled Ukraine, with more than 2 million settling in Poland.

On Friday, Biden will go to Poland, where both problems are expected to be at the forefront of his discussions with President Andrzej Duda. Before Biden returns to Washington on Saturday, another big event could occur. According to the White House, he will “give remarks on the free world’s joint efforts to assist the people of Ukraine, hold Russia accountable for its terrible conflict, and preserve a future based on democratic principles.” According to Sullivan, Biden and his colleague leaders would attempt to “lay out a longer-term game plan” for the alliance’s eastern flank countries’ forces and capabilities.

Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria are forming four new NATO battlegroups with a total strength of 1,000-1,500 men. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who will address the NATO summit via video, said late Wednesday that he wants NATO to “declare that it would fully assist Ukraine in winning this war” by delivering any weaponry required. Meanwhile, national security officials from Washington to Warsaw are growing concerned that Putin could use chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. According to Sullivan, the allies would meet to discuss how to respond to such “possible eventualities,” including “the whole topic of the potential use of nuclear weapons.”

Before leaving for Brussels on Wednesday, Biden told reporters that he thought Russia could use chemical weapons was a “serious threat.” On whether such a strike represents a red line that would lead the alliance into war with Russia, Stoltenberg remained tight-lipped on Thursday. He stated, “I will not guess beyond the fact that NATO is always ready to defend, protect, and respond to any form of attack on a NATO-allied country.” In a CNN interview this week, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov warned that Russia may contemplate using nuclear weapons if it felt there was an “existential threat to our country.” The head of the European Union’s executive branch said she wants to talk to Biden about the possibilities of obtaining additional liquefied natural gas supply from the US for the 27-nation union.

Ursula von der Leyen, speaking at the European Parliament before Biden’s arrival, said the EU was seeking a guarantee from the US for more LNG supply “for the next two winters.” The EU imports 90% of the natural gas it uses to generate electricity, heat homes, and power industry, with Russia providing about 40% of the gas and a quarter of the EU’s oil. By diversifying its gas suppliers, the EU hopes to minimize its reliance on Russian gas. According to Sullivan, the US is searching for ways to “spike” LNG supplies to Europe in order to compensate for supply interruptions. Biden, for one, was anticipated to lay out plans for further penalties against Russia as well as humanitarian aid for the region.

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According to a US official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose private talks, Biden is considering targeting members of the Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament. The person went on to say that no final decision had been reached and that the new sanctions would be implemented in conjunction with Western allies. According to a poll conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, Americans are growing acceptance of the necessity for the US to take a role in halting Putin. However, even as public anxiety has grown and support for a larger US participation in the fight has grown in the previous month, Biden’s poor approval rating has remained the same, according to the AP-NORC poll. Few believe he is capable of handling a crisis, and the majority believe he lacks toughness when dealing with Russia.

Biden assured voters that he had the ability to manage a complex international crisis like the one currently unfolding in Europe, and his trip will be the latest test of that claim as he attempts to maintain unity among Western allies while preparing for potentially even greater obstacles. At a time when maintaining unity in what has been a largely united Western response to Russia is critical, the US president will encourage key allies like Poland to reconsider sending a Western peacekeeping operation to Ukraine. It’s a hazardous notion for the US and some other NATO members, who want to deny Russia any reason to expand the war beyond Ukraine’s borders.

Biden is anticipated to highlight the exploits of the Ukrainian military and volunteers who have managed to fend off an overpowering Russian military for his local audience. He’ll highlight those remarkable efforts, as well as the generosity of Poles and other allies on the front lines of the humanitarian crisis, as he reiterates his calls for Americans to stand firm in the face of a Russian war that’s driving up gas prices and adding to inflationary pressures in the United States.

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