September 26, 2022

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Biden's European trip will be heavy on showing Western unity, but it may be light on measures to stop Putin's war in Ukraine

Biden’s European trip will be heavy on showing Western unity, but it may be light on measures to stop Putin’s war in Ukraine

Since the idea of ​​a NATO leaders’ summit was first floated about two weeks ago, US and European officials have been discussing potential leaders’ announcements at the conclusion of the meeting, according to several people familiar with the plans.

This could include new rounds of sanctions against the Russian oligarchy, additional measures to restrict the country’s finances, and new steps to limit the import of Russian energy products. Discussions are also underway about what could be revealed to provide more support to Ukraine, including new shipments of military aid or financial aid to bolster the country’s defenses.

Biden left open the option of increasing the deployment of US forces to NATO members along the alliance’s eastern edge, bolstering the US commitment to European defense at a critical moment.

But the stark fact that these moves are unlikely to curb Putin’s war looms with Biden visiting Brussels for a flash NATO meeting, along with a special session of the European Council and a G7 meeting. Officials said Biden may also add another stop in Eastern Europe, possibly in Poland. He leaves Washington on Wednesday for high-level diplomatic maneuvers.

While Biden has succeeded in rallying European and Asian allies behind a combination of tough sanctions and unparalleled levels of military assistance, he and his NATO counterparts have drawn the lines where their support will end. And while all sides appear to support a diplomatic solution to the crisis, US and European officials say the criteria for such a settlement remain vague.

That leaves open how Biden’s visit to Europe – one of the poignant moments of his presidency – could change the course of Europe’s worst conflict since World War II. And it brings up another point of discussion that world leaders must begin to make: What happens if, or when, Ukraine can no longer withstand Russia’s onslaught?

“They have to look at what happens if Ukraine loses,” said retired General Wesley Clark, the former supreme commander of NATO. “Having assessed the problem of what would happen if Ukraine fell, they should think about what more could be done to support Ukraine in the fight. Yes, there is a risk. There is always a risk in dealing with Mr. Putin.”

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Biden challenged to be ‘world leader’

And Ukrainian leader Biden publicly challenged last week to take responsibility for ending the fighting. at Speech to CongressPresident Volodymyr Zelensky called for a no-fly zone and help in purchasing fighter jets directly to Biden, who watched from his private library on the third floor of the White House.

“To be the leader of the world is to be the leader of peace,” Zelensky said in English.

Former Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko also challenged Biden to visit Ukraine as a “symbol of our solidarity” during his trip to Europe this week.

Speaking to CNN’s Jim Acosta on Saturday afternoon, Poroshenko called Biden “a very good friend of mine and a very good friend of Ukraine,” adding that Biden’s visit would be “a very correct step to prove that the whole world stands with us against Russia.”

Those personal pleas will resonate with a man who vowed as he sought office to restore American leadership, renew American alliances and defend democracy from the creeping tide of authoritarianism.

No challenge will be more relevant as in this week’s emergency talks, as leaders look to Biden for direction and purpose as the war in Ukraine continues.

“He is challenging Biden to fulfill his responsibilities as leader of the West, and leader of the democratic community of nations. He has presented the real challenge to NATO,” said Ian Brzezinski, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe. NATO in the George W. Bush administration.

“He was saying that if NATO is not up to this challenge, we should consider other security arrangements,” Brzezinski said. “What a powerful challenge to the relevance of NATO in this day and age. This sets the context for the … (meeting) summit.”

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Support Ukraine frontiers in full screen before the trip

However, with the two summits announced last week, some European diplomats revealed concern about what they saw as the lack of major steps available for leaders to take at the high-level meeting, which will be closely watched by both Russia and Ukraine.

Key elements that Ukraine wants, such as NATO assistance in creating a no-fly zone or providing Soviet-era fighter jets, are now appearing off the table as the United States and its partners seek to avoid direct confrontation with Russia. This means that any announcement from the meetings will likely focus more on ramping up assistance already being provided, including military and financial aid, or applying new sanctions against Russia.

European and US officials said discussions about the declarations and a joint final statement were continuing as countries looked to work out a decision or plan ready for the summit.

“The president is looking forward to seeing his counterparts face to face. I think they will have a number of new measures that they will be able to unveil and bring up during those conversations, but I won’t be ahead of them for a few days,” US Deputy National Security Adviser John Viner said last week on CN that.

An important announcement during the summit may help underscore the current unity among allies, which US officials say has taken Putin by surprise as his country’s military struggles with casualties on the ground.

“He misjudged the West,” said Marie Yovanovitch. “I think he thought… there would be some reprimand, maybe some punishment, but he could bear it, he could go on, and he could move on.” Former US ambassador to Ukraine.

“Instead, he inspired the return of NATO. And the West is united in opposition and is trying to provide not only some kind of reinforcement for NATO and neighboring countries on the borders of Ukraine, but also in providing support to Ukraine.”

Confronting China will be our top priority after Biden Xi’s call

The upcoming summits will provide Biden with an opportunity to measure the temperature of his counterparts on another issue: What to do if Chinese President Xi Jinping He decides to provide military or economic support to Russia, as requested by Putin.
In a 110-minute call with Xi last week, Biden offered “ramifications and consequences” to move forward with that support, according to the White House. But punishing China – the world’s second largest economy – will be much more complicated than it was with Russia, and will require the same unity with Europe, which did not always agree with Biden on how to deal with Beijing.

“This is an incredibly important summit. It’s being held on an exceptional basis in the midst of a crisis. And it’s partly to make sure that we and our allies [are] On the same page, this is good. “It is also important to send a signal to Vladimir Putin,” said Kurt Volcker, a former US ambassador to NATO and special envoy for Ukraine.

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Volcker outlined several messages the alliance should send during its summit, including recommitting to the Article 5 guarantee of collective defense and clarifying Russia’s use of nuclear weapons that would elicit a Western response.

But he said NATO must make it clear that Ukraine – not a member of its group – is nonetheless an issue of critical importance to its members.

“I think it is very important that NATO also sends a signal on Ukraine, and that Ukraine remains as an independent and sovereign country in Europe is in NATO’s interest,” Volcker said. “We don’t want to say what we don’t do. We don’t want to be more specific about what we’re going to do. But we need to send a signal to Putin that we won’t sit idly by while he destroys a sovereign European state.”