With Europe’s future in jeopardy, President Joe Biden will meet with key allies in Brussels and Warsaw this week to attempt to prevent Russia’s assault on Ukraine from escalating into a larger disaster.
Biden will leave on a four-day journey on Wednesday, putting his ability to negotiate the continent’s biggest crisis since World War II to the test. As Russia’s invasion grows stymied by logistical issues and heavy Ukrainian opposition, there are worries that it would resort to chemical or nuclear weapons.
Humanitarian issues are also on the rise. Millions of people have left the violence, largely by crossing into Poland, and the conflict has damaged Ukraine’s wheat and barley crops, heightening the risk of increased famine in destitute places across the world.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said the president will work with allies on military help for Ukraine and further sanctions against Russia. He went on to say that Biden is working on long-term military operations in Eastern Europe, where more countries are concerned about Russian aggression. In addition, the president wants to lessen the continent’s dependency on Russian energy.
At a White House press conference on Tuesday, Sullivan said, “This conflict will not finish simply or quickly.” “The West has been unified for a few months now. The president is visiting Europe to ensure that we remain unified.”
Sullivan said Vladimir Putin’s early mentions of nuclear weapons are “something we do have to be concerned about,” and that Biden would be talking to friends about “possible reactions” if the Russian leader takes that step.
Another clue that the issue is entering a new and unclear phase was Sullivan’s depiction of Biden’s trip.
After Putin’s first invasion failed to destabilize Ukraine’s government, the conflict has devolved into a slog for him, with airstrikes and artillery wreaking havoc on civilian populations. Negotiations between Ukraine and Russia have failed to generate a cease-fire or a plan to end the crisis, and the US continues to supply Ukrainian soldiers with weaponry such as anti-tank missiles.
The war’s repercussions are also being felt. Biden said that Russia might be preparing cyberattacks on American businesses, and he called with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday to warn him against providing military or financial support to Russia. Meanwhile, a senior State Department official paid a visit to India this week, just after the nation chose to increase its purchases of Russian oil.
Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University, remarked, “This is one of those critical moments for an American leader that establishes their legacy abroad.”
Biden’s first stop will be in Brussels, where he will have back-to-back meetings.
Biden is likely to restate his support for Article 5 of NATO’s charter, which pledges all members to collective defense if any are attacked, during a hurriedly convened emergency meeting.
“I believe that the meeting of all NATO heads of state and government will provide us with yet another platform to demonstrate our unity, our support for Ukraine, as well as our readiness to protect and defend all NATO allies,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “And by conveying that message, we are preventing the crisis from escalating into a full-fledged NATO-Russia war.”
Biden will also attend European Union and Group of Seven summits, which bring together the world’s wealthiest countries.
On Friday, he’ll go to Warsaw to engage with Polish leaders about the massive humanitarian issue caused by the Ukrainian migration problem. On Saturday, Biden will meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda.
Duda, whose nation was brutally occupied by the Nazis during WWII, compared Russian operations in Ukraine to Adolf Hitler’s famed SS soldiers. Duda claimed Putin’s army “is operating in exactly the same way” when visiting Bulgaria on Tuesday. He expressed his hope that those guilty for assaults on civilians will face international justice.
Poland’s leaders have pushed for a Western peacekeeping operation to intervene in Ukraine, a move that the US and other Western allies fear may widen the conflict. Increased military deployment along NATO’s eastern flank is also a priority for Poland’s government.
Biden’s travel to Poland, according to Sullivan, is a vital chance for him to “meet with a frontline and extremely vulnerable ally.” Poland is also home to an increasing number of American troops, and Sullivan hinted that Biden would pay them a visit.
Last week, at NATO’s Brussels headquarters, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his counterparts discussed what defenses to put in place on the organization’s eastern flank, which stretches from Estonia in the north to Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland in the south, all the way down to Bulgaria and Romania on the Black Sea.
The goal is to discourage Putin from launching an invasion of any of the 30 countries in the future, not only during the Ukrainian conflict.
Putin has urged that NATO pull its soldiers back and halt growing on its eastern flank.
Biden would “engage with partners on longer-term improvements to NATO troop posture” during his meetings in Europe, according to Sullivan.
Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Warsaw and Bucharest earlier this month preceded Biden’s visit to Poland. While Harris was in Poland, Duda urged the Biden administration to speed up visa processing for Ukrainians with relatives in the United States so that they may at least temporarily relocate in the country.