Biden, Western allies gather in tense moment in Ukraine war

BRUSSELS (AP) – As the war in Ukraine grinds to a second month, President Joe Biden and Western allies are gathering to devise a way to step up pressure on Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, while the economic and security repercussions spread across Europe. spreading in and around the world.

During the half-day on Thursday, the European diplomatic capital will host an emergency NATO summit as well as a summit of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and the 27 members of the European Union. Biden will attend all three meetings and plans to hold a news conference at the end of the day.

Biden arrived here late Wednesday hoping to instigate allies to impose new sanctions on Russia, which has already crippled its economy by a steady stream of sanctions, boycotts and penalties over the past four weeks.

While the West has remained largely united in confronting Russia after its invasion of Ukraine, there is widespread acceptance that unity will be tested as the war chip costs the global economy.

Biden’s national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One on his way to Brussels, “What we want to hear is that the resolve and unity we’ve seen over the past month will last.” ,

The energy crisis exacerbated by the war will be a particularly hot topic at the European Council summit, where the leaders of Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece are hoping for an immediate, coordinated bloc-wide response. EU officials have said they will seek US help on plans to expand natural gas storage facilities for next winter, and they also want the bloc to jointly buy gas.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has dismissed calls to boycott Russian energy supplies, saying it would hurt his country’s economy significantly. Scholz is facing pressure from environmental activists to quickly wean Germany off Russian energy, but he said the process would have to be done gradually.

“To do so from one day to the next would mean plunging our country and the whole of Europe into recession,” Scholz said on Wednesday.

Poland and other eastern NATO countries will also seek clarity on how the United States and fellow European nations can help deal with their growing concerns about Russian aggression as well as a growing refugee crisis. More than 3.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine in recent weeks, with more than 2 million fleeing to Poland.

Biden is scheduled to visit Poland on Friday, where both issues are expected to be at the center of talks with President Andrzej Duda. Another key moment may come shortly before Biden returns to Washington on Saturday. The White House said it plans to “comment on the joint efforts of the free world to support the people of Ukraine, hold Russia accountable for its brutal war, and defend a future rooted in democratic principles.”

Sullivan said the goal of Biden and fellow leaders would be to “draw a long-term game plan” of the forces and capabilities needed for the eastern countries of the coalition.

NATO leaders have agreed to deploy more forces to Eastern Europe to prevent Russia from attacking any members of its ranks and to send equipment to Ukraine to help defend against chemical or biological attacks .

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said four new battle groups, usually numbering between 1,000-1,500 soldiers, were being established in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.

“Together with our existing forces in the Baltic countries and Poland, this means that we will have eight multinational NATO battle groups on the east coast from the Baltic to the Black Sea,” Stoltenberg said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is expected to address the NATO summit by video, said late Wednesday that he wants the coalition to “declare that it will fully help Ukraine win this war” if any necessary By supplying weapons.

At all times, national security officials from Washington to Warsaw worry that Putin might deploy chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons. Sullivan said allies would consult on how to respond to such “potential contingencies,” including “this whole question of the potential use of nuclear weapons.”

Biden told reporters before leaving for Brussels on Wednesday that he believed the prospect of Russia deploying chemical weapons was a “real threat”.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a CNN interview this week that Russia may consider using its nuclear weapons if it thinks “there is a potential threat to our country.”

The head of the EU’s executive branch said she would like to discuss with Biden the possibility of securing additional deliveries of liquefied natural gas from the United States for the 27-nation bloc.

Speaking in the European Parliament ahead of Biden’s visit, Ursula von der Leyen said the EU was seeking commitments from the US for additional LNG supplies “for the next two winters”.

The EU imports 90% of the natural gas used for electricity, heat houses and the supply industry, Russia supplies about 40% of the EU’s gas and a quarter of oil. The bloc is looking at ways to reduce its reliance on Russian gas by diversifying suppliers.

Sullivan said the United States was looking for ways to “increase” LNG supplies in Europe to help make up for supply disruptions.

For his part, Biden was expected to detail plans for new sanctions against Russia and humanitarian aid to the region.

A new sanctions option that Biden is weighing in is targeting members of the Russian State Duma, the lower house of parliament, according to a US official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. The official said a final decision had not been taken and the new sanctions would be implemented in coordination with Western allies.

Biden arrived in Brussels and Americans increasingly acknowledged the need for the US to play a role in stopping Putin, according to a poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

But even as anxiety among Americans grew and support for a major US role in the conflict strengthened last month, Biden’s negative approval ratings haven’t been shaken, an AP-NORC poll found. Very few believe he can handle the crisis, and most think he lacks rigor in dealing with Russia.

Biden promised voters he has experience navigating a complex international emergency such as the one now unfolding in Europe, and his visit will be the latest test of that proposal as he seeks to maintain unity among Western allies and potentially Let’s try to face even bigger challenges.

At a time when it is necessary for Russia to avoid cracking down on a broadly integrated Western response, the US president will pressure important allies such as Poland to withdraw the idea of ​​deploying a Western peacekeeping mission in Ukraine. It is an idea that the US and some other NATO members consider too risky because they want to deny Russia any excuse to broaden the war beyond Ukraine’s borders.

To his home audience, Biden is expected to once again underline the heroism of the Ukrainian military and volunteers who have managed to stop an impressive Russian army. He will 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 call for Americans to stand firm against a Russian war that will drive up gas prices. Increasing and adding to inflationary pressures in the US

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Madani reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Matthew Lee, Hannah Fingerhut and Darlene Superville in Washington and Samuel Petrequin in Brussels contributed to this report.

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