Biden to argue for ‘vital’ NATO role in Vilnius speech

VILNIUS, Lithuania — President Joe Biden will seek to bolster his image as an international coalition builder in a speech on Wednesday, following two days of high-stakes meetings with leaders at a NATO summit.

The event here will test Biden’s pledge when he took office to mend America’s international relations, which include NATO, the 31-nation mutual defense pact forged in the aftermath of World War II. world. High on the agenda is Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has been raging on NATO’s doorstep for nearly 18 months.

A White House official presented Biden’s remarks at Vilnius University on Wednesday, promising a “memorable” speech that would highlight “the strength of the NATO alliance and how it remains a force for security. and global stability”.

“The President will speak about how the widespread support for Ukraine reflects the value of our alliances and partnerships, which he has revitalized since taking office,” said Amanda Sloat, Europe director of the National Security Council.

Biden will advocate for NATO’s “vital” role, a hard-won outcome “that didn’t happen by accident,” Sloat said.

Joe Biden, center, during a family photo with heads of state at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania (Doug Mills/AP)

Joe Biden, center, during a family photo with heads of state at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania (Doug Mills/AP)

“Vladimir Putin thought he could break our resolve when he invaded Ukraine, but our NATO allies and partners around the world have responded by coming together to support the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their freedom, independence and democracy,” she added. added.

But more than 15 years after NATO first promised Ukraine future membership, the alliance’s long-sought security guarantees remain desperately out of reach.

kyiv has campaigned for a fast track to the defensive alliance, with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy organizing a full-court press for NATO membership before and all the way to the summit. Zelenskyy’s outreach has seen him run hopscotch through European capitals in search of the unanimous approval the expansion demands.

And it has tested the alliance, its leaders echoing a plea from Zelenskyy that Ukraine “deserves” membership.

In remarks to a large crowd in Vilnius a day before the US president, Zelenskyy promised that “Ukraine will make NATO stronger”.

The pressure to fast-track Ukraine’s access had grown deafening as the summit opened with news that Sweden would soon be added after a sudden overthrow by recalcitrant member state Turkey.

But disappointment hung in the air for Ukraine and its staunchest supporters, leaving the White House to answer questions about Washington’s role in a statement Zelenskyy called “absurd” for its failure to deliver for his country. a tangible path to NATO.

“Uncertainty is weakness,” Zelenskyy said on the eve of the speech.

Hours before Biden will meet with the Ukrainian leader and other allies, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the war-torn Eastern European nation was still seeking clarity on its future NATO membership. .

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