US President Joe Biden will meet world leaders in Brussels, Belgium on Thursday for emergency summits to respond to the war in Ukraine, a momentous visit that comes as the West grapples with how to disrupt the invasion of Ukraine. Russia.
During his stay in Belgium, the White House says, Biden is scheduled to visit NATO headquarters and deliver remarks at a summit of alliance leaders.
He will also attend and deliver remarks at a meeting of G7 leaders; he will hold a bilateral meeting with European Council President Charles Michel and join and deliver remarks at a European Council summit, before concluding the day with a press conference. After his first leg of the trip in Brussels, Biden will go to Warsaw, Poland.
The trip marks a crucial opportunity for Biden to reassert US leadership on the world stage, amid a war that is causing heightened anxiety among NATO’s eastern allies. And it will be a test of what global alliances, weakened in recent years, can achieve in the post-World War II and post-Cold War eras.
Here are five key questions for Biden’s day with world leaders in Brussels:
What will the West do next for Ukraine?
The US and NATO are expected to launch several new efforts during emergency talks on Thursday, intended to punish Russia for its war against Ukraine.
NATO leaders will approve the deployment of four additional battle groups to Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovakia at their summit on Thursday, US Ambassador to NATO Julie Smith said on Wednesday.
NATO leaders are expected to agree to strengthen the alliance’s posture, including increasing its forces in the east, stepping up cyber defenses and expanding allied exercises.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said Tuesday that the administration believes right now “they have an effective posture today for what is needed today,” but added that Biden and NATO allies will discuss “adjustments to longer term in NATO’s force posture on the eastern flank”.
US and European officials have indicated they will discuss how to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy.
Sullivan said Wednesday that the issue will be a “substantial topic of conversation” between Biden and other leaders at the G7 and EU summits on Thursday and is a “big priority” for them. He said leaders have weighed a “practical roadmap” to end Europe’s dependence on Russian oil and natural gas.
Sullivan said the United States would seek to increase supplies of liquefied natural gas in Europe in the short term, although he did not elaborate on the details of a plan.
What will Biden’s leadership look like?
Thursday’s summits could serve as a moment for Biden to reassert US leadership in the crippled NATO alliance, which he has promised to restore as a presidential candidate.
There will be several speeches, as well as a press conference, where the president is expected to lay out the next steps for the US. But ahead of Air Force One’s arrival in Europe, the administration previewed a series of new efforts the US will undertake. or will consider to reply to Russia.
In Brussels, Biden is expected to unveil new sanctions against Russian political figures and oligarchs. And in addition to discussing NATO’s eastern flank force posture, he will discuss contingency plans for Russia’s potential use of chemical or nuclear weapons with groups he meets with, Sullivan said.
The United States is also considering changes to its own military posture in Eastern Europe. Before the president’s trip, the Pentagon provided the White House with a series of options for the possible deployment of additional US troops to Eastern Europe, according to a US official.
Biden could announce changes to the force’s posture after his meetings on Thursday, though any announcement would depend on talks with allies and is not finalized.
Biden is expected to announce sanctions on hundreds of Russians serving in the country’s lower legislative body, the Duma, an official familiar with the announcement said. The United States had already sanctioned some members of the body, but this week’s announcement will expand the list.
Biden will also engage more on human rights “to respond to the growing flow of refugees” from Ukraine, Sullivan said.
The United States is also taking more symbolic steps: On Wednesday, before Biden’s arrival in Brussels, the US government formally declared that members of the Russian military have committed war crimes in Ukraine.
Will Zelensky appear?
Although Ukraine is not a member of NATO, alliance leaders have discussed whether and how President Volodymyr Zelensky could participate in this week’s summit.
Since the war began, Zelensky has given a series of rousing virtual speeches to various government bodies while in his home country, urging the West to do more to counter Russian forces.
But the country’s lack of NATO membership has allowed member nations to limit their interventions to further defend Ukraine, which borders NATO’s eastern flank.
Zelensky has asked Biden to visit Kyiv, suggesting it would be a dramatic show of support, but the option was never explored at the White House. However, Biden will head to Poland on Friday, which borders Ukraine and has taken in millions of Ukrainian refugees.
How will Putin react to the West’s united front?
The Kremlin has issued several warnings this week against NATO, suggesting that Russian President Vladimir Putin is upset with people in Ukraine who want to be part of the alliance.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Citizen Free Press’s Christiane Amanpour on Tuesday that Putin has not yet achieved his goals in Ukraine. Peskov, who says he is in contact with Putin every day, said the goal remains to get rid of Ukraine’s military potential and that the occupation is not among the stated goals of the operation.
Asked if he was confident that Putin would not use the nuclear option, Peskov replied: “If there is an existential threat to our country, then it can be used in accordance with our (internal security) concept.”
Peskov separately warned this week that introducing a NATO peacekeeping mission in Ukraine would be “reckless” and “extremely dangerous”, after Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawieck said “a proposal for a mission will be formally presented” for peace in Ukraine” at the NATO summit.
The US and NATO also believe that Belarus could “soon” join Russia in its war against Ukraine, US and alliance officials told Citizen Free Press, and that the country is already taking steps to do so.
“Putin needs support. Anything would help,” a NATO military official explained Monday.
Russia maintains that it wants to be part of talks with global alliances. Responding to unconfirmed reports suggesting that the United States and its Western allies were evaluating whether Russia could remain in the Group of 20, Russia’s ambassador in Jakarta said on Wednesday that Putin “wants to go” to November’s G20 summit. In Indonesia.
Will NATO actions be effective?
Biden and NATO leaders have argued that the war in Ukraine has unified the alliance’s member countries more than ever, but Thursday’s meetings may be a test of strength for NATO’s capabilities.
Though unified in their actions to respond to Putin, NATO members have yet to dissuade Russia from continuing the month-long war in Ukraine.
An official at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe, the NATO alliance’s military operations headquarters in Europe, told reporters Wednesday that Putin’s war in Ukraine has put the NATO alliance already its member countries “absolutely at risk”. Another headquarters official said the war has created a “new reality” for the allies.
“From Russia we realize that Putin and his close circle are absolutely reckless people. They do not care about human life. They lie publicly to hide their military operations. Putin has totally changed his discourse towards the West, and he has a deep hatred of our societies, to our values, so we really assess that it is dangerous and that the alliance is absolutely at risk,” the first official said on Wednesday.
Zelensky claimed earlier this month that NATO’s Article 5, the principle of collective defense, is weaker than ever. He suggested that some of the 30 alliance members will not act if Russia’s military moves beyond Ukraine’s borders because they “have bullied themselves” out of fear of another world war.
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