In an effort to strengthen the international coalition supporting Ukraine’s counteroffensive against Russia, US President Joe Biden is embarking on a three-nation trip to Europe, which includes attending a NATO summit. This article explores Biden’s upcoming visit, highlighting key destinations and objectives.
Heading to Europe: Itinerary and Focus
On July 9, President Biden will commence his journey by traveling to Britain, followed by Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, for the NATO leaders’ meeting. Subsequently, he will make a one-day visit to Helsinki, engaging in talks with his Nordic counterparts. This trip aims to reinforce the alliance’s commitment to Ukraine as it faces Russia’s aggression.
NATO Summit: Expansion Plans and Ukraine’s Bid
The NATO summit holds significant importance as the Western military alliance strives to admit Sweden, whose membership request has faced opposition from Turkey and Hungary. Simultaneously, Ukraine is intensifying its efforts to join NATO amidst Russia’s invasion. Finland recently became a full member of the bloc earlier this year, highlighting the alliance’s expansion.
Before departing for Europe, President Biden will meet Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson at the White House to discuss Stockholm’s NATO aspirations. Sweden applied for membership three months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in May 2022. Additionally, high-level diplomats from Turkey and Sweden will meet at NATO headquarters in Brussels, following Kristersson’s visit to Washington, D.C.
Turkey had previously opposed Finland’s membership bid but eventually dropped its objections. However, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently criticized Stockholm for permitting a protest during which pages from the Koran were burned. The Swedish government condemned the incident as “Islamophobic.” Despite these tensions, both Western allies and Stockholm affirm that Sweden has fulfilled the terms of the agreement made with Ankara last year, enabling its potential accession to NATO.
Ukraine’s Aspiration: A Clear Signal from NATO
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine expressed his desire for the country to receive an “invitation” to join NATO after the war with Moscow concludes. He emphasized the need for a definitive indication during the Vilnius summit that Ukraine can become an equal member of the alliance once hostilities cease. Zelensky, alongside Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, stressed the importance of this invitation as the first practical step towards Ukraine’s NATO membership.
Visit to Britain: Strengthening Bilateral Ties
During his stop in Britain, President Biden will engage in several significant meetings. Firstly, he will visit Windsor Castle to meet with King Charles III, marking their first encounter since the monarch’s coronation. Additionally, Biden will hold talks in London with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, following the latter’s visit to Washington, D.C., a month earlier. The primary goal of these meetings is to further strengthen the close relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.
President Biden’s upcoming trip to Europe signifies the United States’ commitment to reinforcing the international coalition supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia. The NATO summit, discussions with Swedish and Nordic counterparts, and meetings in Britain all contribute to enhancing alliances and addressing regional security concerns. This visit emphasizes the importance of unity and collaboration among nations in confronting shared challenges.