By Chris Megarian, Lorna Cook and Aamer Madani
BRUSSELS (AP) – US President Joe Biden and world leaders opened a trio of emergency summits on Thursday with a grim warning from NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg that the coalition must boost its defenses to counter Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. and “should answer a new one.” Security Reality in Europe. ,
Stoltenberg commented that he focused on mounting pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin over the attack on Ukraine to order a NATO summit, while turning to the economic and security repercussions spread in Europe and around the world.
“We gather at a critical time for our own safety,” Stoltenberg said, addressing the leaders sitting at a large round table. “We are united in our condemnation of the Kremlin’s unprovoked aggression and our support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.”
He added that the coalition is “determined to continue to impose costs on Russia to end this brutal war.”
During Thursday, the European diplomatic capital is hosting an emergency NATO summit, a gathering of the Group of Seven industrialized nations, and an EU summit. Biden will attend all three meetings and hold a press conference later.
The schedule left Brussels with several police checkpoints and roads closed to allow motorcyclists to move across the city as leaders move from one meeting to the next.
Biden arrived late Wednesday with hopes of instigating allies to impose new sanctions on Russia, which has seen its economy crippled by weeks of sanctions, boycotts and penalties.
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.
The consolidation of forces along NATO’s eastern flank, almost certainly for at least the next five to 10 years if Russia is to be effectively deterred, will also put pressure on the national budget.
“We need to do more, and therefore we need to invest more. There is a new sense of urgency and I hope leaders will agree to accelerate investment in defense,” Stoltenberg said ahead of the summit said.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said the US wanted to hear that “the resolve and unity we’ve seen over the past month will last as long as it takes time.”
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.
Four new NATO battle groups, usually numbering between 1,000–1,500 soldiers, are being established in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.
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 aides would consult on how to respond to such “potential contingencies.”
Biden said this week that the prospect of Russia deploying chemical weapons was a “real threat”.
Stoltenberg on Thursday declined to discuss whether such a strike was a red line that would lead an alliance with Russia to war. “I would not speculate beyond the fact that NATO is always ready to defend, defend and respond to any type of attack on a NATO ally,” he said.
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.”
EU executive branch chief Ursula von der Leyen said before Biden’s visit to discuss the possibility of securing additional deliveries of liquefied natural gas from the United States for the 27-nation bloc “for the next two winters”. want to
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 to Europe to help.
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 new sanctions will be implemented in coordination with Western allies.
Biden arrived in Brussels with Americans and swiftly acknowledged the need for the US to help stop 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 had experience navigating the complex international emergency facing Europe and that his trip would be the latest test of that proposal as he tackles the challenges of maintaining unity among Western allies and potentially even bigger ones. try to face it.
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.