US President Joe Biden wrapped up the UK leg of his three-nation trip to Europe on Monday before flying to Vilnius, Lithuania, for this week’s NATO summit.
On Monday, Biden met British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street – his sixth meeting with the UK prime minister, who is believed to have touched on various global issues, including the war in Ukraine.
The pair have met regularly in recent months, seeking to mend relations strained under Sunak’s predecessors – particularly in relation to the UK’s post-Brexit trade arrangement with Northern Ireland.
London’s relationship with the Irish-American Biden has since improved, especially after Sunak negotiated with the European Union about moving things along.
Biden told reporters in London that he “couldn’t have met a better friend and greater ally.”
“Our relationship is rock solid,” he added.
Biden and King Charles III face the ‘generational challenge’ of climate change
The president then visited King Charles III at Windsor Castle, flying from central London to the royal residence in his Marine One helicopter.
In May, Biden refused to attend Charles’ coronation with the promise that he would visit soon. On Monday, he made good on that promise when the two men addressed the “generational challenge” of climate change.
After a quick greeting, attention turned to a tightly planned event at Windsor Castle where the two men participated in a climate roundtable attended by financial and philanthropic heavyweights.
For decades, Charles has championed wildlife and environmental causes. Biden has said that climate change is one of the four crises he has identified and intends to address during his presidency.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the president has “great respect” for Charles’ commitment to those causes, calling him a “clarion voice” and “a person who drives action and effort.”
Biden’s agenda at the NATO summit
On Monday night, Biden traveled to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius ahead of talks with NATO leaders scheduled for June 11 and 12.
Expected to be on the agenda is NATO’s support for Kyiv, as well as Sweden’s desire to join the alliance, which is currently blocked by Turkey.
The Vilnius summit also comes after the Biden administration greenlit the delivery of cluster munitions to Ukraine, with some NATO allies such as the UK and Spain expressing concern about the move.
Sunak’s spokeswoman said the pair discussed the issue while Biden was in London, acknowledging that giving up weapons “is a difficult choice for the US.” This “forced them into a war of aggression with Russia,” he added.
After his trip to Lithuania, Biden will go to Finland, which is the newest member of the NATO alliance.
What Biden said about Ukraine and NATO membership
The US president cast doubt on the possibility of Ukraine being offered NATO membership in comments to CNN.
“I don’t think it’s ready for NATO membership,” Biden told the US broadcaster in an interview broadcast on Sunday.
Biden said he hoped NATO leaders would “lay out a reasonable path for Ukraine to be eligible to enter NATO.”
To join the military alliance, countries must “meet all the qualifications, from democratization to a whole range of other issues,” Bioden stressed. He added that bringing Ukraine into the alliance now would mean “war with Russia.”
“I don’t think there is a consensus in NATO whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, at this moment, in the middle of the war,” he said.
Biden added that it will “take a long time” for Ukraine to become a member of NATO.
However, Biden said Washington could give Kyiv the same support it has given Israel until Ukraine joins NATO.
“The United States is ready to provide … security a la the security we provide for Israel.” He said this includes “giving them the weapon they need, the capacity to defend themselves.”
According to a recent report by the US Congressional Research Service, no other country in the world has received more US support than Israel since World War II.
Biden called Sweden into NATO during the call with Erdogan
Also on Sunday, the White House said Biden expressed a desire for Sweden to join NATO “as soon as possible” in a phone call with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
Sweden’s NATO bid requires unanimous consent from all member states, including Turkey. On Thursday, Stockholm failed to convince Ankara to approve Sweden’s participation in NATO in a meeting at the level of foreign ministers.
Erdogan told Biden that Sweden has taken steps in the right direction for Turkey to support the bid, Turkey’s presidential communications director said in a separate statement on Sunday.
However, it is said that the measures are counterproductive as supporters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) continue to hold demonstrations in Sweden.
sdi/wd (AP, dpa, Reuters)