US President Joe Biden is slated to travel to Brussels for NATO and EU summits next Thursday, officials said, as Western allies align their response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The gatherings on March 24 of the US leader with his European counterparts come after Washington and Brussels unveiled successive waves of coordinated sanctions against Moscow.
“We will address Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, our strong support for Ukraine, and further strengthening NATO’s deterrence and defense,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a tweet.
“At this critical time, North America and Europe must continue to stand together,” he added.
“In these testing times our transatlantic action is more important than ever,” EU council chief Charles Michel said in a tweet.
At the March 24 summit in Brussels, Biden will “reaffirm our iron-clad commitment to our NATO allies,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters.
At the EU summit, leaders will discuss the invasion of Ukraine and Western efforts to impose “economic costs on Russia, provide humanitarian support to those affected by the violence and address other challenges,” Psaki said.
She said Biden’s trip is slated to include face-to-face talks with European leaders.
“While he’s there, his goal is to meet in person face-to-face with his European counterparts and talk about, assess where we are at this point in the conflict in the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. We’ve been incredibly aligned to date,” Psaki said. “That doesn’t happen by accident. The president is a big believer in face-to-face diplomacy. So it’s an opportunity to do exactly that.”
The trip follows Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit to eastern flank NATO countries of Poland and Romania last week to discuss with leaders the growing refugee crisis in eastern Europe sparked by the Russian invasion and to underscore the Biden administration’s support for NATO allies.
Psaki would not rule out Biden adding stops to his European trip, amid speculation that he could possibly meet with some of the three million refugees who have now fled Ukraine, according to the United Nations.
She said his “real focus right now is to meet with NATO partners in Brussels. If there are additional steps, we’ll share all those details.”
“We’re still working through the final details,” she said.
Poland’s Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau said Tuesday that a visit by Biden to Poland was “very probable” when he comes to Europe. More than 1.8 million Ukrainians have fled to Poland since the start of the war, according to the United Nations.
“It would be hard to imagine a better place for the United States and for the entire alliance to stress their position than the brightest link on the eastern flank, that Poland is,” Rau told Polish state TVP INFO.
The White House’s announcement of Biden’s visit to Brussels came on the same day that leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia set out for Kyiv by train despite the security risks to show their support for Ukraine. It was a visit EU officials said was not sanctioned by other members of the 27-nation bloc.