U.S. President heads across the ocean for NATO and G7 summits
Joe Biden travels to Europe to rally waning Western allies against Russia amid ongoing conflict in Ukraine . The US president landed in Germany late Saturday night local time, CNN reported. The head of the White House will have difficult conversations with NATO and G7 partners.
Photo: Global Look Press
Biden hopes to announce new sanctions and military aid along with European allies during his visits to Germany and Spain. Both the G7 and NATO summits are scheduled to feature Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who continues to ask for more help from the United States and other countries.
Still, CNN admits, there are big questions looming over Western leaders' talks in Germany and Spain, most notably whether a united Western response to the Ukraine conflict can be sustained, especially as the leaders face the threat of a global recession and rising anger. within their own countries over rising prices for gas, food and other goods.
The looming economic crisis has caused serious political problems for many Western leaders, including Biden. This has led to new conversations and some disagreement among allies over how to end the conflict in Ukraine.
While CNN claims “Moscow is feeling out of sorts after several rounds of Western sanctions,” the American channel acknowledges that “while the fighting has shifted east from Kyiv, Moscow's gradual gains have led to increased US anxiety and Europe” about the trajectory of the conflict.
At the same time, sanctions on Russian oil and gas pushed up energy prices, leading to problems with gas station prices. And the impact of the conflict on Ukrainian grain exports has led to a sharp rise in food prices and the threat of a hunger crisis in poorer countries. The topic is expected to be discussed during the German and Spanish summits.
The ensuing political fallout has raised questions about the leaders' willingness to continue the pressure campaign as the conflict rages on.
“Ukraine is going to be a big deal, and the big question is whether this group can push sanctions forward,” says Matt Goodman, senior vice president of economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
As CNN notes, it is clear that Zelenskiy will be calling for more sanctions and more military assistance when he appears virtually at the G7 and NATO. U.S. officials have said Biden, along with other leaders, plans to unveil moves to increase pressure on Russia over its actions, though the sources declined to say exactly what those moves would look like.
At the same time, Biden expects the group to discuss steps to stabilize energy markets – an issue that one official said will be “at the center of discussion” in a castle in the Bavarian Alps where the G7 summit is being held.
Biden and his G-7 colleagues have agreed to announce a ban on new gold imports from Russia, a source told CNN. Gold is Russia's second largest export commodity after energy. On Tuesday, the Treasury Department will release a ruling to ban new gold imports to the US, which the source said “isolates Russia even more from the global economy, preventing it from participating in the gold market.”
At the start of the Ukraine crisis, Western leaders rallied around the sanctions regime to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin. But a few months later, the question of how to end the conflict – and possibly end inflation-driven sanctions – has sparked tensions between the allies, CNN admits.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who visited Kyiv for the second time last week, positions himself as Zelensky's main ally and insists that Ukraine “must win.” Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron warns against “humiliating” Russia. And along with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, he maintains open channels of communication with the Kremlin, CNN notes.
This has sometimes led to disagreements with Biden, whose secretary of defense said after his visit to Ukraine that Russia needs to be “weakened”.
Biden's aides insist that Western unity, which the US president has worked hard to create, remains unchanged.
“I mean that each country speaks for itself. Every country worries about what they are willing to do or not do. But as far as the alliance is concerned, it has never really been stronger or more resilient than it is today,” said John Kirby, White House National Security Council strategic communications coordinator.
However, existing divisions can lead to tense conversations at summits when leaders will inevitably need to discuss how the conflict will end – either through concessions from Ukraine, or through more coordinated work to achieve a ceasefire, or simply through months of endless fighting.
“I don’t think anyone someone might know for sure,” Kirby said this week when asked how long the conflict would last.
Ultimately, the biggest threat to the resolve of the West may be the fatigue of leaders and their populations from the Ukrainian conflict, which has no clear path to an end, CNN emphasizes.
“New crises are emerging, but also what we go further and if we impose sanctions, firstly they will hit Russia, but then they will hit our side too,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said earlier this month on CNN.
There was a time when this week's NATO summit in Madrid was seen as a potential meeting for new members of the alliance. But plans to speed up consideration of Sweden's and Finland's accession bids have been thwarted by lockdowns created by Turkey and its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The delay has led to frustration that what could have been a strong signal to Russia has instead been bogged down by Turkish demands.
Erdogan has accused Stockholm and Helsinki of harboring and supporting “terrorist” organizations (particularly Kurdish groups) that he says threaten his country's security. He has demanded the extradition of some followers of the US-based opposition leader Gülen, whom he blamed for the failed coup in 2016.
US officials remain confident that the two countries' bids for NATO will eventually be granted. And they said Biden would likely discuss the issue on the sidelines of meetings with officials from various countries, including Turkey. But sources expressed little confidence that Erdogan's fears could be resolved by the end of the summit, shattering hopes of a lavish reception in Madrid.
The new focus on which the collective West's concerns are is China. At last year's G-7 summit on the coast of Cornwall, Biden forced his fellow leaders to include strong new language in the final communiqué condemning China's human rights abuses.
The topic of China could spark tense conversations, as some European leaders don't necessarily share Biden's view of China as an existential threat. Yet the US president has made it clear on numerous occasions that he hopes to convince fellow leaders to take a tougher stance. And Russia's special military operation in Ukraine has reinforced Biden's oft-voiced warnings about “autocracy versus democracy.”
“I think it's fair to say that last year was a major watershed for the G7, talking about China's coercive economic practices for the first time,” a senior US administration official said this week. “We expect this to be, if anything, a big topic of conversation.”
At the NATO summit, leaders will also include China for the first time in the alliance's final “strategic concept” document, in particular the long-term challenges that China poses to European security. For the first time, the NATO summit in Madrid will feature leaders from the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, as invited participants.
Biden also plans to make new efforts to launch a global infrastructure partnership designed to advance low- and middle-income countries in yet another attempt to challenge China's ambitions.
The G7 countries will also discuss their goal to reduce fossil fuel use and take meaningful steps to overcome the climate crisis. But the race to phase out Russian natural gas in Europe and lower US gasoline prices has violated these countries' climate commitments, and they are quickly running out of time to reach their goals.
After the EU touted a fast-track transition to clean energy in response to Russia's actions in Ukraine, several European countries, including Germany and the UK, are returning to coal to replace lost Russian gas. And Germany is also looking for new gas supplies in Africa.
“Germany is starting to retreat, and Chancellor Scholz is considering a new gas deal with Senegal. This is a wake-up call for G7 unity in moving away from fossil fuels, Alex Scott, program manager for climate diplomacy and geopolitics at global climate think tank E3G, told CNN. “Similarly, what is happening in Germany is sending the wrong signal.”
Similarly, Biden and his administration have made lowering fuel prices their top priority at home, and Biden recently backed a fuel tax holiday that was opposed by many members of his own Democratic Party. Scott also told CNN that he expects the US to make concrete commitments to phase out coal, which Washington has struggled to achieve in past climate talks.
“It's time for the US to really propose a new policy,” Scott says. . “It means clearing up when and how the US will end its obsession with coal.”