The main focus of Biden’s five-day visit will be the annual NATO summit, held this year in Vilnius, Lithuania. Also planned are stops in Helsinki, Finland, to commemorate the Nordic country’s entrance into the 31-nation military alliance in April, and Britain, the White House announced Sunday.
Biden will begin his trip next Sunday in London, meeting with King Charles III. The president did not attend Charles’s coronation in May, sending first lady Jill Biden to represent the United States. In June, Biden hosted British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the White House, where the two leaders pledged continued cooperation in defending Ukraine.
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary-general, visited the White House on June 13, where he and Biden made clear that the Western alliance was united in defending Ukraine. Biden said during that meeting that he and other NATO leaders will work to ensure that each member country spends the requisite 2% of its gross domestic product on defense.
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“The NATO allies have never been more united. We both worked like hell to make sure that happened. And so far, so good,” Biden said as he sat alongside Stoltenberg, who is expected to extend his term for another year. “We see our joint strength in modernizing the relationship within NATO, as well as providing assistance to defense capabilities to Ukraine.
When Finland joined NATO in April, it effectively doubled Russia’s border with the world’s biggest security alliance. Biden has highlighted the strengthened NATO alliance as a signal of Moscow’s declining influence.
Sweden is also seeking entry into NATO, although alliance members Turkey and Hungary have yet to endorse the move. Biden will host Sweden’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, at the White House on Wednesday in a show of solidarity as the United States presses for the Nordic nation’s entry into NATO.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has said Sweden is too lax on terrorist groups and security threats. Stoltenberg has said Sweden has met its obligations for membership through toughening anti-terrorist laws and other measures.
Hungary’s reasons for opposing Sweden have been less defined, complaining about Sweden’s criticism of democratic backsliding and the erosion of rule of law. Hungary, while providing humanitarian aid to Ukraine, has also sought to balance its relations between NATO and Russia. Budapest is heavily reliant on Russia for its energy requirements.
All nations in the alliance have to ratify the entry of a new member country.
The White House has stressed that Sweden has fulfilled its commitments to join NATO and has urged that it join the alliance expeditiously.
Associated Press Writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.
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