Biden assesses conflict Ukraine at NATO meeting next week

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: US President Joe Biden arrives aboard Air Force One at Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US March 11, 2022. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File Photo

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BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Joe Biden will meet NATO and European Union leaders in Brussels next week for a summit to discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, without Moscow pulling out.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the March 24 meeting in a Twitter (NYSE:) post on Tuesday, and the White House confirmed Biden would attend, as well as a European Council summit on the same day.

The official announcement of the meeting at NATO headquarters, first reported by Reuters on Monday, was made two days after Russian missiles hit a Ukrainian base near the border with NATO member Poland, an attack that sparked the conflict on the threshold of the western alliance.

NATO supported countries on the eastern flank with additional troops in the months leading up to the Russian invasion of 24 February.

Biden, whose administration has been in close contact with its NATO allies and others during the war, wants to strengthen ties, said White House spokesman Jen Psaki.

“His goal is to meet in person and talk about and assess where we are at this point in the conflict,” she said. “We’ve been incredibly aligned so far. That doesn’t happen by accident.”

Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said Biden’s visit to Poland “seems very likely”, but the White House declined to comment. Psaki said the details of the trip are still being worked out.

NATO defense ministers will also meet on Wednesday in what Stoltenberg called “a defining moment for our security.”

“I think it’s a very important journey that the president is taking,” Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said. She called US solidarity with NATO and the European Union unprecedented, contrasting it with Russia’s less obvious alliance with China.

“This is one of the great advantages we have over Russia, which has few if any allies or partners,” Sherman said in an interview with CNN. “And I think if the PRC is in fact a partner, then it is a partner of a fair transactional relationship, not of real interests.”

Ursula von der Leyen, chair of the EU commission, said she was happy to continue talks with Biden in person. “Transatlantic unity and coordination remain crucial to increase pressure on the Kremlin to end this unjustified war,” she wrote on Twitter.

Zelenskiy has called for NATO to impose a no-fly zone to protect his country from Russian aerial bombardments, but the alliance is wary of any step that could bring it into direct conflict with Russia.

The Ukrainian leader is likely to plead his case again when he addresses the US Congress on Wednesday. He spoke with Canadian lawmakers on Tuesday and with the British Parliament last week.

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