As Russian forces concentrate their fire on cities and trapped residents in a nearly month-old invasion of Ukraine, President Joe Biden has added a visit in Poland to his trip to Europe this week for urgent consultations with NATO and European allies.
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 troops and has taken in more people fleeing the conflict in Ukraine — over 2 million — than any other country in the midst of Europe’s worst refugee crisis in decades.
Biden will travel to Warsaw on Saturday for a bilateral meeting with President Andrzej Duda. Biden will speak about how the US is reacting to “the humanitarian and human rights crisis that Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war on Ukraine has created,” according to Psaki.
Biden will meet with European leaders on Monday, ahead 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 expected to attend.
Biden has no plans to visit Ukraine, according to White House officials.
While in Poland earlier this month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken quickly went into neighboring Ukraine to show 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 elsewhere. 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 behalf 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 airbase, 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 military.
His requests for a “no-fly zone” over Ukraine to reduce Russian air power have been rebuffed by NATO and the US, which 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 storm Kyiv and destabilize the country’s westward-looking government. Due to the lack of an easy and early 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 pushing for more direct involvement in the war after he got European allies to participate in sweeping penalties against Russia for the invasion at the outset. This includes Poland’s peacekeeping proposals.
Biden’s trip includes a NATO summit on Thursday, where leaders will discuss how to improve the bloc’s own deterrence and defense, both now and in the future, in order to deal with Putin, who has become openly confrontational.
That gathering is intended not just to show NATO’s “support to Ukraine, but also our readiness to protect and defend all NATO allies,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told CBS “Face the Nation” on Sunday.
“And by sending that message, we are preventing an escalation of the conflict to a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia,” Stoltenberg said.
As per US News, front-line NATO members on the alliance’s eastern flank are also asking for advanced U.S. and British air defense systems to guard against the kind of missile and air assaults Russia is unleashing on Ukraine.
“We have to strengthen our eastern flank of NATO. We have been talking about this for years, but now it’s time for action,″ Estonia’s prime minister, Kaja Kallas, told CNN’s “State of the Union.”
She added: “We need some more capabilities to support ourselves and defend ourselves by air defense systems, what is definitely necessary here, but also the troops that are present that act as a deterrent also to the Russian military.”
Noting that Russia is firing missiles “from such a long-range that they can also reach Paris from where they are shooting right now,” Kallas said European leaders must “understand that this defense is our common issue, and it’s not a theoretical discussion, but issue in real life.”
According to Psaki, Biden will also attend a European Council session to discuss the partners’ sanctions against Russia and humanitarian assistance for the millions of Ukrainians displaced by Russia’s attacks.
According to Psaki, his itinerary includes a meeting of leaders from the Group of Seven countries to discuss the harsh financial and economic penalties on Russia by the West and its allies in response to its invasion.