Biden rallies allies against Russia: Five takeaways

President BidenJoe BidenDefense & National Security — Russia’s tenuous grip slips On The Money — Biden’s economic approval falls deeper Equilibrium/Sustainability — US agency killed 400K native animals in 2021 MORE spent three days in Europe as the US and its allies plot out next steps roughly one month into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, committing to stand with Ukraine, defend NATO territory and prevent a victory for Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinPentagon: Russia has lost partial control of first captured Ukrainian city Ukraine, Taiwan, the Koreas: Is the world tilting toward major wars? Russian ambassador files lawsuit against Italian newspaper over article suggesting Putin’s death MORE.

Biden met with NATO and Group of Seven (G-7) leaders in Brussels before visiting Poland to mingle with US troops and greet refugees who fled Ukraine.

Officials had touted the trip as a show of unity among the US and its allies in the face of Russia’s assault on Ukraine. Biden and other leaders announced a flurry of new initiatives to provide more humanitarian and security aid to the region.

Here are five key takeaways on this week’s meetings in Brussels and Poland:

Biden vows unity against Putin

Biden placed blame for the Russian invasion into Ukraine directly on Putin, saying pointedly in his speech on Saturday, “It is Putin, it is Vladimir Putin who is to blame. Period.”

The three-day trip was driven by the goal of showing the US and its allies are unified and cooperating against Putin’s invasion. Biden reiterated the US’s commitment to the NATO treaty and Article 5 in particular, which states that an attack against one NATO ally is an attack against all.

He also ended the trip with a declaration that Putin cannot remain in power.

“Ukraine will never be a victory for Russia, for free people refuse to live in a world of hopelessness and darkness. We will have a different future, a brighter future, rooted in democracy and principles, hope and light, of decency and dignity, of freedom, and possibilities,” Biden said. “For God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power.”

The White House has since tried to walk back those comments, saying that the president wasn’t calling for a regime change, but instead for Putin to not have power outside of Russia.

Biden called Putin “a butcher,” ahead of the remarks on Saturday, when asked what he thought of the Russian president for having caused the humanitarian fallout from the conflict. The president also on Friday reiterated his belief that Putin has committed war crimes, and Secretary of State Anthony BlinkenAntony BlinkenDefense & National Security — Russia’s tenuous grip slips Israel to host summit with US, top Arab diplomats Officials say 300 dead in Russian airstrike on Mariupol theater MORE on Wednesday said the Biden administration has determined that Russian forces have committed war crimes in Ukraine.

US stepping up aid for refugees

The humanitarian crisis stemming from the Russian invasion and attacks on major Ukrainian cities was a central theme of Biden’s visit, as he was briefed on the response and met with refugees who had crossed the border into Poland.

Biden announced the US would welcome up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees, though the actual number is likely to fall short of that, given many may prefer to relocate within Europe. Biden also announced $1 billion in aid to be used for food, medical care, water, blankets and other supplies.

The president on Saturday got a first-hand look at the humanitarian fallout of Russia’s invasion, meeting with refugees at PGE Narodowy Stadium in Warsaw and speaking with workers helping to provide meals and care to displaced Ukrainians.

“It’s incredible. You see all those little children. They just want a hug. They just want to say thanks. It just makes you so damn proud,” Biden said, calling those who have fled an “amazing group of people.”

The European Union separately announced this week it would allocate an additional 3.4 billion euros for humanitarian efforts for the Ukrainian people.

The issue of refugee assistance is likely to be a long-term one. Roughly four million Ukrainians have fled the country within four weeks of the beginning of the invasion, and the number will only continue to grow.

US, allies prepping for possible Russian escalation

Biden and NATO leaders signaled throughout their meetings they were prepared to respond and present a unified front should Russia deploy chemical weapons or expand its attacks beyond Ukraine.

“We would respond if he uses it. The nature of the response would depend on the nature of the use,” Biden said Thursday about if Putin used chemical weapons in Ukraine.

NATO Deputy-General Secretary Mircea Geoana said in an interview with The Associated Press that NATO is “ready to respond proportionally” if chemical weapons are used.

Four new battle groups were established in Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary to step up NATO’s defense of its territory, increasing the number of multinational NATO battle groups between the Baltic Sea and Black Sea to eight.

Biden touted those plans on Thursday and said that the US will develop new plans for additional forces and capabilities to strengthen NATO’s defenses between now and the next NATO summit in June.

“The combination of Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine and the change in the physical military relationship between Russia and Belarus does mean, from the president’s perspective, that the United States and NATO need to show strength and resolve in terms of the forces and capabilities postured along the eastern flank,” national security adviser JakeSullivanJake SullivanThe Hill’s 12:30 Report – Manchin’s magic ‘yes’ vote Biden to meet with Ukrainian refugees, give ‘major address’ on Saturday The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden turns up heat on Russia MORE said Friday.

Additionally, NATO agreed to strengthen cyber defenses and equipment to help Ukraine protect against biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear attacks, including detection equipment, protection and medical supplies and training for decontamination and crisis management.

Biden and EU strike deal to reduce dependence on Russian energy

One of Russia’s greatest sources of leverage over the rest of Europe is that it is a major energy supplier, providing natural gas to swaths of the continent and boosting the Russian economy in the process.

But a major deal struck between Biden and European Union leaders in Brussels aims to wean Europe off of Russian energy.

The two sides announced a task force “to reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels and strengthen European energy security.” As part of the agreement, the United States will work with international partners to supply at least 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2022.

“This new battle for freedom has already made a few things crystal clear. First, Europe must end its dependence on Russian fossil fuel, and we, the United States, will help,” Biden said in Warsaw on Saturday.

The European Commission also committed to working with European Union member states to ensure demand of roughly 50 billion cubic meters of LNG from the US until at least 2030, signaling it will be a years-long effort to fully eliminate European reliance on Russian energy.

“We need to secure our supplies not just for next winter but also for the years ahead. And this is an important, a big starting point to do that,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Friday after the announcement of the arrangement.

The announcement follows other steps the US and allies have taken in coordination to deal blows to the Russian energy sector. Germany announced last month it would rescind the permit for construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would deliver gas from Russia to parts of Eastern Europe. And the Biden administration announced earlier this month it would ban Russian oil, natural gas and coal imports.

Potential global food shortage looms

Biden and NATO leaders discussed potential global food shortages during their meetings in Brussels, a prospect that the president warned is “going to be real.”

Both Russia and Ukraine are significant providers of wheat, though the US and Canada are both major wheat producers, too. The White House warned this week that Russia’s invasion jeopardizes food security for the Middle East and Africa in particular.

“The price of these sanctions is not just imposed upon Russia, it’s imposed upon an awful lot of countries as well, including European countries and our country as well,” Biden said Thursday.

To attempt to combat this, Biden announced his intention to redouble combined efforts with the European Union to increase global food security and provide direct food aid, where warranted, to prevent a crisis.

Biden and NATO leaders talked about urging all the European countries and everyone else “to end trade restrictions on limitations on sending food abroad,” the president said on Thursday.

The US and allies are also in the process of working out how to alleviate food shortage concerns amid rising inflation and lingering supply chain issues, the president said. Part of that effort will involve the US and Canada increasing production.


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