Embattled Biden greets NATO allies at summit in US

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US President Joe Biden is set to open a NATO summit in Washington DC with a speech.
US President Joe Biden is set to open a NATO summit in Washington DC with a speech.

US President Joe Biden is set to welcome the heads of NATO member states to Washington DC for an annual summit that gives the embattled Democrat an international stage to convince allies at home and abroad he can still lead.

Biden, 81, has vowed to press on in his race against Republican Donald Trump, 78, despite concern from Democrats on Capitol Hill and donors that he will lose the November 5 election after a halting debate performance on June 27.

Biden made restoring the United States’ traditional alliances abroad to counter the threat of autocracies the centrepiece of his foreign policy after Trump challenged allies as part of an “America First” approach.

Who wins in November could have a substantial effect on NATO’s and Europe’s future.

Jens Stoltenberg and Lloyd Austin
US officials say Ukraine will be offered a “bridge to membership” at a NATO summit. (AP PHOTO)

Trump has suggested that, given a second term, he would not defend NATO members that did not meet the alliance’s defence spending target of 2 per cent of their respective GDP if they came under military attack.

He has also questioned the amount of aid given to Ukraine in its battle against Russia’s invasion.

Aides said Biden’s opening speech expected at 5pm Eastern time will highlight what his administration sees as a key accomplishment: a stronger and more united NATO military alliance, under US leadership, with more members and a resolve to meet their collective security needs.

That brings, they say, tangible results for US voters: a safer country, with a strong international economic position, more alliances and power abroad, and less at risk of conflict with its adversaries.

“That’s not by accident,” White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday.

“That’s because of leadership. That’s because of constant stewardship of the alliance.”

The mere presence of leaders from NATO and beyond shows Biden’s power to assemble coalitions and inspire confidence, Kirby said, arguments that Trump and many of his Republican allies reject.

“Republicans, of course, celebrate the peace and prosperity that NATO has secured and will continue to stand by our partners as we prevent needless wars,” said US House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson, a top Republican and Trump ally, on Monday.

“But we also believe that NATO needs to be doing more.”

NATO, celebrating its 75th anniversary, has found new purpose in opposing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion and welcomed Finland and Sweden as new members.

The grinding Ukraine-Russia war will dominate private conversations between the leaders of the 32 NATO member countries, who have a full agenda focused on military and financial aid for Ukraine and offering the country some pathway toward eventual NATO membership.

More than a week after the debate, Biden continues to face daily questions about his fitness for office and a punishing election campaign.

Some Democratic lawmakers have called for him to end his campaign.

Joern Fleck, senior director of the Europe Center at the Atlantic Council, said questions about Biden’s survival were “absolutely on everyone’s minds”.

The week’s events in Washington DC will give Biden a chance to address the concerns, including a high profile speech on Tuesday and a rare solo press conference on Thursday.

US officials have said the summit will offer Ukraine a “bridge to membership,” which would include a new NATO effort to co-ordinate arms supplies and training.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is expected to attend the summit and meet with Biden.

Reuters