() — President Joe Biden and alliance leaders enter the first day of the high-level NATO Summit on Tuesday with a renewed sense of unity after a huge victory Monday night when Turkey accepted Sweden’s offer to join. to the alliance
“Thank you, Mr. President, for hosting this historic summit at an important time. The first time NATO leaders will meet, 31, together, and we hope to meet very soon with 32 members with the addition of Sweden,” Biden said as he began a bilateral meeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, host of the summit. .
“I’m sure we’ll get it done,” Biden added.
Leaders meet in Vilnius, Lithuania, for a two-day summit that could become one of the most momentous meetings for the alliance in modern history, about a month after Ukraine’s slow counteroffensive and weeks after an insurrection failed in Russia became a major threat to the leadership of President Vladimir Putin.
While national security experts warned that not admitting Sweden to NATO could herald cracks in the alliance, Monday night’s announcement, which came just hours after Biden landed in the Lithuanian capital, marks a surprising turnaround for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has blocked the membership offer for more than a year.
Biden and other members have touted unprecedented unity among the alliance on the Russia war, and the move also provides the leaders with an important show of force ahead of the summit.
“We came to this important summit with a full head,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters in Vilnius on Tuesday morning.
“When the NATO summit begins, our alliance will not only be bigger and stronger than ever, but it will be more united, more determined and more energized than at any time in modern history. And that is in large part thanks to the personal leadership of President Biden,” he added.
Sullivan said Turkey’s decision was “the product of direct talks between the three parties to that deal,” but the US “had significant recent engagement with all involved,” noting that Biden hosted Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. at the White House last week, his call to Erdoğan last Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meeting with his Swedish and Turkish counterparts, and his own engagement with his counterparts.
He pointed to questions about unity in the past week when he warned that the Vilnius summit will “very disappoint” Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“In much of the coverage of the summit, I would say that the rumors about the death of the NATO unit were greatly exaggerated. Every few months, the question comes up: can the West stick together? Can NATO stick together?” Sullivan said.
“Every time the allies meet, that question is asked again, and every time the allies meet and they answer forcefully and vehemently: ‘Yes, we can.’ Vladimir Putin has been counting on the West to break, NATO to to break, the Transatlantic Alliance to break. He has been disappointed at all times.”
The Swedes will not join the alliance right away: a parliamentary procedure in Turkey will be needed to formally approve their entry and Hungary must also drop its objections, which it is expected to do now that Erdogan is on board.
Biden called for “quick ratification” in a statement after the news broke, and Sullivan said Tuesday that the United States looks forward to “welcoming Sweden as NATO’s 32nd ally in the near future.”
‘United, positive sign’
There will be other critical issues for the US president to address in Vilnius this week, including his controversial decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, which are banned by more than 100 countries, including some key US allies. There are questions for leaders about the path for Ukraine to finally join NATO and the possibility of additional security assistance, and President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to attend in person on Wednesday and hold a face-to-face meeting with Biden.
The meeting will mark another sign of unity, as Zelensky’s attendance at the summit had been in doubt. Russia’s war in Ukraine is high on the agenda for NATO leaders, as well as discussing a future path for the war-torn country to join the alliance, which has caused some division among leaders.
In a positive sign of Ukraine’s efforts to join NATO, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the alliance had agreed to allow Kyiv to bypass a formal process detailed in its membership application. Kuleba said in a tweet on Monday that “after intensive discussions, NATO allies have reached a consensus on the removal of the MAP. [Plan de Acción de Membresía] Ukraine’s path to membership”.
Biden and NATO allies will “send a united and positive signal” on the path to NATO admission for Ukraine at the summit, Sullivan said Tuesday, reiterating that Kyiv still “has more steps on its way.” of reform”.
Sullivan declined to predict a specific date for Ukraine to join the alliance.
“I can’t put a schedule on it. I don’t think you’ll see that coming out of here,” she said. “From our perspective, it is the job of the alliance with Ukraine to chart that path of reform and then make Ukraine work towards it.”
But in an interview with ‘s Fareed Zakaria last week, Biden said Ukraine is not yet ready to join NATO and said Russia’s war in Ukraine must end before the alliance could consider adding Kyiv to its ranks. .
Article 5 Commitment
The summit also comes days after the United States announced it would send cluster munitions to Ukraine for the first time, a move aimed at bolstering Ukraine’s offensive capabilities, prompting some public disagreement from allied countries, a move Biden called as a “tough decision” in his interview with Zakaria, but it was necessary because Ukraine is running out of ammunition.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told reporters over the weekend that the UK is “a signatory to a convention that prohibits the production or use of cluster munitions and discourages their use.”
But earlier in the week, Sullivan tried to downplay any concerns that Biden’s decision to send cluster munitions presented a “fracture” with allied countries that oppose the use of such equipment, saying the US has not received No negative feedback from allies since the announcement. And on Tuesday, he emphasized that the move is temporary.
“We view that as temporary because many months ago, we began the intensive process of increasing our unit round production. Once it reaches a level where unitary projectile production can meet Ukraine’s needs, then there will be no need to continue delivering cluster munitions,” he said, declining to provide a timetable because of questions about usage rates and the availability of cluster munitions. defense industrial base reaching its production records.
A single round has only one explosive charge, compared to cluster munitions which are canisters that carry tens to hundreds of smaller bomblets.
Sullivan added: “We weren’t prepared to leave Ukraine defenseless, period. So for us, when it came to choosing, our choice was that despite the difficulty, despite the challenges, despite the civilian harm risks associated with cluster munitions, the civilian harm risk of leaving to Ukraine without the ammunition it needed was, from our perspective, bigger.”
Earlier in the day on Tuesday, Biden participated in an official arrival ceremony and a bilateral meeting with Nausėda, where he reaffirmed the United States’ “commitment to NATO” and to Article 5, the principle that an attack against a member of NATO is an attack against everyone. members
“We all take – NATO takes – Article 5 literally. One inch of NATO territory means we are all on board together against whoever is violating that space. We will defend every inch,” he said.
Biden will also meet with members of the US Congress who will attend the summit, Sullivan said.
He will also take part in an official greeting with Nausėda and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who recently agreed to extend his term for another year. NATO leaders will take part in a family photo before their first meeting begins. And later this Tuesday, Biden will hold a bilateral meeting with Erdoğan on the sidelines of the summit, where the two are expected to discuss efforts to “(improve) defense and deterrence in the Euro-Atlantic area,” according to Biden’s statement.
Biden arrived in Vilnius on Monday evening following a meeting with Sunak at 10 Downing Street and a climate change engagement with King Charles III at Windsor Castle, marking the president’s first meeting with the monarch since his coronation.
— ‘s DJ Judd, Luke McGee and Jeremy Herb contributed to this report.