Biden’s mission in Europe: strengthening the alliance against Russia


President Joe Biden waves before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Saturday, June 25, 2022. Biden is traveling to Germany to attend a Group of Seven summit of leaders from major nations industrialized people of the world. After the meeting in the Bavarian Alps, the president will travel to Madrid on June 28 to take part in a gathering of NATO member countries. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)


President Joe Biden is ready to back the global alliance punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine as he embarks on a five-day trip to Europe as the four-month war shows no signs of abating and its aftershocks on global food and energy supplies are deepening.

Biden first joins a meeting of the major economic powers of the Group of Seven in Germany’s Bavarian Alps, then travels to Madrid for a summit with the leaders of the 30 NATO countries. The visit comes as the global coalition aimed at supporting Ukraine and punishing Russia for its aggression has shown signs of unraveling in the face of soaring food and energy price inflation caused by the conflict.

The war in Ukraine has entered a more attritional phase since Biden’s last trip to Europe in March, just weeks after Russia launched its assault. At that time he met allies in Brussels as Ukraine was regularly bombed and he tried to reassure Eastern European partners in Poland that they would not be next to face an incursion. from Moscow.

Russia’s subsequent withdrawal from western Ukraine and regrouping in the east turned the conflict into artillery battles and bloody house-to-house fighting in the country’s industrial heartland, the Donbass region.

While U.S. officials see broad consensus to keep pressure on Russia and maintain support for Ukraine in the near term, they see Biden’s trip as an opportunity to align strategy for both the conflict and its global ramifications as winter approaches and beyond.

The allies disagree on whether their goals are simply to restore peace or to force Russia to pay a higher price for the conflict in order to prevent its recurrence.

“Every country speaks for itself, every country worries about what it is prepared to do or not do,” said John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council. “But when it comes to the alliance, it really has never been stronger and more viable than it is today.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is expected to address both summits via video. The United States and its allies sent his country billions of dollars in military assistance and imposed ever-tighter sanctions on Russia following the invasion.

Kirby said the allies would make new “commitments” at the summits to further separate Russia from the global economy. The aim is to make it harder for Moscow to acquire technology to rebuild the arsenal it has depleted in Ukraine and to crack down on sanctions busting by Russia and its oligarchs.

G-7 summits have traditionally put global financial issues front and center, but amid soaring inflation in the United States and Europe, little concrete action is expected.

“There are different drivers of inflation in these different economies, different things that can be used to deal with it,” said Josh Lipsky, director of the Atlantic Council’s GeoEconomics Center. He foresees “a lack of ability to do anything coordinated on inflation, other than to really talk about the problem.”

Biden attributed much of the price hike to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, particularly in energy markets, as U.S. and allied sanctions have limited Moscow’s ability to sell its energy supplies. oil and gas. Maintaining Western resolve will only become more difficult as the war drags on and cost-of-living issues pose political headaches for national leaders, US and European officials have said.

Finding ways to shift Russian energy to other sources — without backtracking on long-standing climate change goals — should be a key talking point.

Russia was once a member of what was then the G-8. He was kicked out of the group in 2014 after it invaded Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, a move that foreshadowed the current crisis.

A top priority for Western officials heading into the summit is finding a way to get Ukraine’s vast grain harvest to the world market, as the United Nations and others warn that dozens millions of people are starving due to limited supplies. The most impactful changes would require an agreement from Russia to stop targeting food and food infrastructure, as well as agreement on the establishment of a maritime corridor to allow grain exports from Ukraine.

In Madrid, Biden will help promote NATO efforts to welcome Finland and Sweden into the alliance after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine led the two historically neutral democracies to seek protection from the association of mutual defense.

It remains to be seen whether Biden will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has indicated he plans to block the two countries from joining NATO unless he secures concessions. Adding new members requires the unanimous support of current NATO members.

US officials maintained optimism that both countries would be welcomed into the alliance, but played down expectations of a breakthrough in Madrid.

Biden often talks about the world in a generational struggle between democracies and autocracies that will set the global agenda for decades to come. He aims to use the trip to show that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has “strengthened” democracies in the face of threats from autocracies in Moscow and Beijing.

Biden also secures an important step for NATO to recognize China as an emerging challenge for the alliance. The formal reference to China in NATO’s new “Strategic Concept”, the first update of its guiding principles since 2010, responds to efforts by several presidents to extend the alliance’s attention to China, even in the face of an increasingly belligerent Russia.

In a symbolic step, NATO has invited Pacific leaders from Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia to the summit.

“Instead of distracting us from the Indo-Pacific and China, the President’s leadership in supporting Ukraine has actually galvanized leaders in that region and effectively linked our efforts in Europe and Asia. “, Kirby told reporters. “And the Asian countries that will participate in the NATO summit, I think, speak volumes about that fact.”

Biden is also set to relaunch his idea of ​​a global infrastructure investment program to counter China’s influence in the developing world, which he previously called “Build Back Better World” and had presented at the 2021 G-7 summit.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin accused NATO of trying to “trigger a new cold war” and warned against the alliance “drawing ideological lines that could induce confrontation. “.


Superville reported from Telfs, Austria.

Lynn A. Saleh