As Russian soldiers concentrate their fire on towns and trapped residents in a nearly month-old invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden has added a visit in Poland to his journey to Europe this week for urgent consultations with NATO and European partners.
Biden will fly to Brussels first, then to Poland to meet with leaders, according to a statement sent by Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, on Sunday night.
In the Ukraine situation, Poland is a critical ally. It is hosting thousands of American soldiers and has taken in more refugees fleeing the conflict in Ukraine — over 2 million — than any other country in the middle of Europe’s worst refugee crisis in decades.
Biden will go to Warsaw on Saturday for a bilateral meeting with President Andrzej Duda. Biden will speak on how the US is reacting to “the humanitarian and human rights disaster that Russia’s illegal and unprovoked attack on Ukraine has caused,” according to Psaki.
Biden will meet with European leaders on Monday, before of his travel, to discuss the war. According to the White House, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom are all slated to attend.
Biden has no plans to visit Ukraine, according to White House sources. While in Poland earlier this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken quickly went into neighboring Ukraine to demonstrate sympathy with that country’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba. Poland has been one of the most outspoken in its request for fellow NATO members to consider increasing their involvement in order to reduce the bloodshed.
The invasion of Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin has generally unified the United States, NATO and European allies, as well as partners in Asia and beyond. Moscow’s military aggression is seen as a danger to the US and European nations’ security and geopolitical interests.
While the US and NATO will supply weapons and other defensive support to non-NATO member Ukraine, Biden and NATO have stated repeatedly that they are determined to prevent any escalation on Kyiv’s side that may lead to a larger confrontation with Russia.
On March 9, the Pentagon rejected a Polish proposal to supply Ukraine with MiG fighter jets via a NATO air base, stating that allied efforts against the Russian invasion should focus on more useful weaponry, and that the MiG transfer with a US and NATO connection would have a “high risk” of escalating the war.
Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has pleaded with the United States to give more aircraft and advanced air-defense systems to his forces. His requests for a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine to reduce Russian air power have been rebuffed by NATO and the US, who argue that it would place Western forces in direct conflict with Russian forces.
When Russian tanks and troops moved into Ukraine in late February, Ukrainian fighters put up a resolute battle, quickly defeating Russian attempts to overrun Kiev and destabilize the country’s westward-looking government. Due to the lack of an easy and quick victory, Russia’s military is reverting to the scorched earth tactics used in previous offensives in Syria and Chechnya, pounding population centers with airstrikes and artillery barrages, allowing civilians in Mariupol to safely go out for food and water, bury the dead, or flee.
Biden’s responsibilities now include dealing with certain NATO members who are pressing for greater direct engagement in the war after he got European partners to participate in broad penalties against Russia for the invasion at the beginning. This comprises Poland’s peacekeeping plans.
Biden’s trip includes a NATO summit on Thursday, when leaders will discuss how to improve the bloc’s own deterrence and defense, both now and in the future, in order to cope with Putin, who has been openly antagonistic.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that the meeting is meant to highlight NATO’s “support for Ukraine, as well as our preparedness to protect and defend all NATO countries.”
“We are averting an escalation of the crisis to a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia by conveying that warning,” Stoltenberg said.
Front-line NATO allies on the alliance’s eastern flank are also requesting upgraded US and British air defense systems to counter the missile and air attacks Russia is launching against Ukraine.
“We need to bolster NATO’s eastern flank.” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told CNN’s “State of the Union” that “we have been talking about this for years, but now it’s time for action.”
“We need some additional capabilities to protect and defend ourselves through air defense systems, which is really vital here,” she said, “but also the soldiers that are present that operate as a deterrence to the Russian military.”
Kallas said European leaders must “understand that this defense is our collective concern, and it’s not a theoretical talk, but a real-life issue,” noting that Russia is launching missiles “from such a great range that they may also reach Paris from where they are shooting right now.”
According to Psaki, Biden will also attend a European Council session to address the partners’ sanctions against Russia and humanitarian assistance for the millions of Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s actions.
Also reported to Psaki, one of the items on his agenda is a meeting of the leaders of the Group of Seven nations to address the harsh financial and economic sanctions imposed on Russia by the West and its allies in response to its invasion.