Biden is heading to Europe. A king and a war are on his agenda

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden departs Sunday for Europe, where he will spend time in three nations tending to alliances that have been tested by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Arriving overnight in London, Biden will meet King Charles III the next day for the first time since his coronation. Next comes the centerpiece of the trip, the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. Alliance leaders will discuss war and revise plans to deal with Russian aggression.

The final stop is in Helsinki, where Biden is expected to celebrate the alliance’s expansion on Thursday, with Finland as a new NATO member.

His national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said the trip would “showcase the president’s leadership on the world stage.”

An overview of Biden’s agenda and the issues he will face:


Biden arrives in London on Sunday evening and is expected to have a full schedule of meetings on Monday.

“There’s always a lot to discuss with the UK,” said Max Bergmann, a former State Department official who heads the Europe program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Biden will meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing St. Sunak faces an election by the end of next year. His Conservative party is far behind the opposition in opinion polls.

Despite Sunak’s fragile political position, he has maintained close ties with Biden and this will be their sixth meeting since Sunak took office last October.

Bergmann said Sunak’s tenure had been a nice change of pace after “there were some concerns about Boris Johnson”, one of Sunak’s predecessors, “being a loose cannon”.

Biden will visit the king at Windsor Castle, a royal residence outside London. Biden did not attend Charles’ coronation – first lady Jill Biden went in his place – so this will be their first meeting since then.

They are expected to discuss climate change, an issue that has been at the center of both leaders’ concerns, and how to fund initiatives to tackle the problem.


Biden will spend two days in the Lithuanian capital, which hosts the annual NATO summit. He will participate in meetings with leaders and deliver a speech from Vilnius University.

The alliance was reinvigorated by the war in Ukraine, and members poured military hardware into the country to help repel the Russian invasion.

Biden on Friday defended what he called a “difficult decision” to supply cluster munitions to Ukraine, a move his administration called key to the fight and underpinned by Ukraine’s pledge to use controversial bombs carefully. Biden will likely face questions from allies about why the United States would send a weapon to Ukraine that more than two-thirds of NATO members have banned because it has caused widespread civilian casualties.

For Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, the summit “will send a clear message: NATO remains united and Russia’s aggression will not pay”.

But NATO has also struggled to bridge divisions on important issues. Finland was welcomed into the alliance this year, but Sweden’s membership was blocked by Turkey and Hungary.

There are also disagreements over how quickly to invite Ukraine to join NATO.

Countries on NATO’s eastern flank want to act quickly, seeing it as a way to deter Russian aggression. The United States and others advocate a more cautious approach.

One question has already been settled, at least for now. Stoltenberg’s term was extended for a year because the members could not agree on a new leader.

Senator Thom Tillis, who will attend the summit, likened the alliance to a gathering of dozens of family members who bicker and clash but remain united nonetheless.

“At the end of the day, you know you’re part of the family,” said Tillis, RN.C.

Tillis leads a bipartisan delegation with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, DN.H., who said NATO is more powerful than before.

“It’s the strongest military alliance in our history, and I think it only got stronger because of American leadership, Stoltenberg’s leadership, and as a result of Vladimir Putin’s threat to all allies. of NATO and other countries in Europe and around the world and the international order,” she said.


After two nights in Vilnius, Biden heads to Helsinki. The stoppage is a bit of a victory lap, but could also be a reminder of unfinished business.

The Nordic country became NATO’s 31st member in April, ending its history of non-alignment and demonstrating how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine backfired on Europe.

Finland was supposed to join alongside neighbor Sweden, whose admission has stalled. NATO requires the unanimous consent of all its members to expand, and the United States has been unable to overcome objections from Turkey and Hungary.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson visited the White House on Wednesday and met with Biden to keep up the pressure for membership. But there is little hope that the problem will be solved in Vilnius.

The White House calls Biden’s visit to Helsinki a “Nordic-American leaders’ summit.”

It is a very different occasion from the last time a US president visited Helsinki five years ago.

During this trip, Donald Trump held a press conference with Putin and brushed off concerns about Russian interference in Trump’s election victory.

Now Biden is heading to the city to demonstrate how his administration has held the line against Moscow and expanded Western defenses.


Associated Press writer Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.

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