As the crisis in Ukraine enters its second month, President Joe Biden and Western allies are meeting to plot a strategy for increasing pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin while also dealing with the economic and security consequences that are sweeping Europe and the world.
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, over the course of a half-day 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 fines 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.
On Air Force One en way to Brussels, Biden’s national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, told reporters, “What we would want to hear is that the commitment and togetherness that we’ve seen for the past month will endure for as long as it takes.”
The war-exacerbated energy situation will be a major subject at the European Council summit, with leaders from Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece calling for an immediate, coordinated response from the whole 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 combined purchase of gas by the bloc.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has denied proposals 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 entail throwing our nation and the rest of Europe into recession,” Scholz warned on Wednesday.
Poland and other NATO members on the eastern flank will be searching for answers on how the US and other European nations can help them deal with their rising fears about Russian aggression as well as a burgeoning migration issue. In recent weeks, more than 3.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine, with more than 2 million settling in Poland.
On Friday, Biden will go to Poland, where both problems are anticipated to be at the forefront of his discussions with President Andrzej Duda. Before Biden returns to Washington on Saturday, another big event might 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 ideals.”
According to Sullivan, Biden and his colleague leaders would attempt to “lay out a longer-term game plan” for the alliance’s eastern flank nations’ assets and capabilities.
NATO leaders have decided to post extra troops in Eastern Europe to dissuade Russia from invading any of their members, as well as to transfer equipment to Ukraine to assist it in defending itself against chemical and biological assaults.
Four additional battlegroups, ranging in size from 1,000 to 1,500 troops, are being established in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Bulgaria, according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
“This implies that we will have eight multinational NATO battlegroups all along the eastern flank, from the Baltic to the Black Sea, in addition to our present forces in the Baltic nations and Poland,” Stoltenberg stated.
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 completely support Ukraine in winning this war” by delivering any weaponry required.
Meanwhile, national security experts from Washington to Warsaw are becoming concerned that Putin may use chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. According to Sullivan, the allies would meet to discuss how to respond to such “possible eventualities,” including “the entire topic of the potential use of nuclear weapons.”
Before leaving for Brussels on Wednesday, Biden told reporters that he thought Russia may use chemical weapons was a “serious concern.”
In a CNN interview this week, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov warned that Russia may contemplate deploying nuclear weapons if it believed there was a “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 in the European Parliament before of 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 produce 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 sources, 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.
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 additional sanctions will be implemented in conjunction with Western allies.
According to a study conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, Americans are growing accepting 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 same, according to the AP-NORC survey. Few believe he is capable of handling a crisis, and the majority believe he lacks firmness when dealing with Russia.
Biden assured voters that he had the ability to manage a complex international crises like the one currently unfolding in Europe, and his trip will be the latest test of that claim as he attempts to preserve unity among Western allies while preparing for possibly much greater obstacles.
At a time when maintaining unity in what has been a mostly 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 conflict 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 force 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.