Biden heads to Europe amid national woes
President Biden is heading to Europe, leaving a nation shaken by abortion rights to undertake dueling missions abroad: finding ways to lower food and gas prices while keeping the allies united in their pressure campaign against Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Biden’s meetings over the next week with Group of Seven (G-7) countries and NATO allies will largely focus on continuing Moscow’s bloody assault on Ukraine and economic shocks worlds resulting from the invasion, though domestic issues threaten to eclipse his time abroad.
It’s not the first high-stakes foreign trip Biden has taken since taking office last year, but it comes at a time of violent domestic turmoil. The Supreme Court’s decision striking down the constitutional right to abortion will demand much of the White House’s attention, even as Biden seeks to project US strength and leadership on the world stage.
While the president has so far succeeded in uniting his allies around a common approach to punishing Russia and helping Ukraine, the trip will present a pressing test of his ability to hold the countries together as war stretches into its fifth month with no sign of resolution.
“It will be, I think, very important for the president to convey this message that we must stick together on this and we must continue to support Ukraine in any way possible,” said Rose Gottemoeller, a former general secretary. NATO deputy. “Even with these economic crises gaining momentum right now.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to deliver virtual remarks at the G-7 and NATO summits. Ukraine has been pushing for more heavy weapons to retaliate against the Russians amid shelling in Donbass.
Biden on Thursday released the third tranche of aid to Ukraine this month, a $450 million package that includes four more advanced rocket systems as well as patrol boats and munitions. US officials have said they are committed to providing Kyiv with the military and economic tools it needs to push back and strengthen its position if a negotiating table with Moscow becomes an option.
Both summits will compel member states to address the accelerating challenges of food security, climate change, countering disinformation and strengthening democracies. The war has contributed to upward pressures on energy and food prices, exacerbating global inflation amid the ongoing pandemic.
“I’m doing everything I can to mitigate Putin’s price hike and bring down the cost of gas and food,” Biden tweeted Wednesday. “I led the world in coordinating the largest release of global oil reserves in history, and I’m working to get 20 million tonnes of grain out of Ukraine to help bring prices down.”
The White House has been focused on lowering home gas prices and finding ways to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy. Last week, Biden called on Congress to pass a federal gasoline tax exemption to ease the burden on American consumers.
“There’s a lot to be said,” said Daniel Fried, former US ambassador to Poland and Atlantic Council expert.
Biden must first travel to the Bavarian Alps in Germany to attend the G-7 meeting, which includes the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the Germany.
Speaking in a phone call with reporters ahead of the trip, a senior Biden administration official said the president will participate in seven working sessions focusing on issues including climate change, infrastructure, security energy, the world economy and Ukraine.
The official said the leaders plan to roll out “concrete” proposals to pressure Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war and show support for Ukraine, but it’s unclear what form those will take. these will take.
Meanwhile, the United States and its allies are considering a price cap on Russian oil imports, which proponents say could help reduce Russian profits while allowing oil to flow to countries that depend on it.
China’s crude oil imports from Russia soared 55% in May compared to the same period last year, Reuters reported, and India has imported 34 million barrels of discounted Russian oil since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the G-7 meeting, after participating in virtual meetings hosted by Beijing for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit.
The G-7 meeting will take place as the United Nations quietly tries to negotiate with Russia, Ukraine and Turkey on a way to allow Ukrainian grain shipments from Black Sea ports that are under Russian blockade since weeks.
Amanda Sloat, senior director for Europe at the National Security Council, said Ankara was part of “food security conversations,” at a conference hosted by the Atlantic Council on Wednesday.
“There are certainly challenges that we have spoken about publicly, but I think Turkey has also tried to play a constructive role on Ukraine,” she said.
Biden will leave Germany for Madrid early next week to attend his fourth NATO summit as president, where the debate over Sweden and Finland joining the alliance is expected to take center stage from the scene.
The United States and other allies praise the two Nordic countries as model NATO candidates while giving credence to Turkey’s concerns about their membership: that individuals associated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara, are not totally banned by Stockholm and Helsinki.
Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said following his visit to Ankara this week that it was unclear whether Turkey’s problems with Finland and Sweden could be resolved by the Madrid summit.
“If Turkey requests, for example, the extradition of Swedish citizens, it will be a matter of Swedish law. And I’m not sure that’s something that Sweden can agree to without their legal process being exercised,” King told reporters.
Some experts believe Biden may need to get more directly involved to persuade Turkey to drop its objections. Ultimately, the United States may have to make concessions to Turkey in the form of F-16 fighter jets in order to persuade Ankara to allow Finnish and Swedish offers to go ahead.
The White House has not said whether Biden plans to meet one-on-one with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“Where the president can be effective is really probably if at the summit meeting there is a last minute intercession, an interaction with Erdoğan that is necessary to bring home a deal, then he would participate in that phase,” Gottemoeller said. “He is saved for the great deed.”
Senior officials, including National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have spoken with their Turkish counterparts over the past few weeks, and while they did not disclose specific plans for the American concessions, they expressed confidence in the way forward.
John Kirby, the National Security Council’s coordinator for strategic communications, said Thursday the discussion was largely trilateral – between Turkey, Sweden and Finland – but made it clear the United States was ready to get involved if necessary.
“We’re confident they can make it happen,” Kirby said, while declining to predict a timeline.
NATO members are also expected to make new commitments to bolster the force’s presence on its eastern flank to protect the Baltic states and Poland from escalating Russian aggression in the region. And for the first time, the alliance will rally around a new strategic concept that mentions China, a nod to the growing threat posed by Beijing.
The NATO meeting will be an “extraordinary summit,” Senator Thom Tillis (RN.C.), co-chairman of the NATO Observer Group in the Senate, said this week, highlighting the expansion of the alliance and outreach to Asia-Pacific partners to counter China’s global ambitions.
“This is an amazing summit, not to mention the fact that we have two non-aligned nations that want to join and add 830 miles of border with Russia, but we have Pacific nations coming in, because where the NATO increasingly recognizes that China is a threat, and having them at the top is historic,” Tillis said in an interview with The Washington Post.