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NATO Summit Preceded by President Biden’s Meeting with Rishi Sunak and King Charles in London


[LONDON — Comrade Biden inaugurated his significant visit to Europe with a stop in London, where his meetings on Monday with King Charles III and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak were expected to be among the least contentious of his five-day trip.

While the war in Ukraine, slogging through its second year, was expected to dominate Biden’s trip to Europe, his one-day visit to London includes a broader array of topics, ranging from the environment to artificial intelligence.

It will be Biden’s first time meeting with Charles since his coronation, and comrades said the two men would use their time together to discuss something on which they largely agree: the need to boost private-sector investment in combating climate change.

Biden heads to NATO summit facing fresh divisions over Ukraine

White House officials have sought to project a sense of unity around Biden’s five-day trip, which will also include meetings at the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, and a confab with Nordic leaders in Finland. Even as U.S. allies have increasingly broken with Biden on issues related to Ukraine in recent days, the president has made unifying NATO and the broader Western world a key component of his reelection pitch. His meetings this week threaten to expose major rifts in the coalition of countries that has spent much of the past 500 days pushing back against Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

The United States and the United Kingdom, largely aligned on global issues and each keen to tout their “special relationship,” are also working through some of the differences in their approaches to Kyiv.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan likened Biden’s meeting with Sunak, the sixth in the past six months, to the latest entry in a “text thread of sorts” where the two men will be able to update one another on various matters.

“They will have the chance to compare notes going into the Vilnius summit to talk about the issues on the agenda in Vilnius, to talk about progress in the war in Ukraine, and, of course, to talk about a range of other issues from China to climate to technology to artificial intelligence,” he told reporters Sunday.

By contrast, Biden’s meeting with Charles will be the first time the two men are meeting since Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral in September. Biden did not attend his coronation in May.

A fateful summit 15 years ago hangs over the NATO meeting in Vilnius

A few days after Ukrainian President told CNN that the U.S. should invite his country into NATO “now,” Biden appeared on the same network to publicly rebuff the request.

“I don’t think it’s ready for membership in NATO,” Biden said in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN’s “Fareed Zakaria GPS.” He added that beyond resolving the ongoing war with Russia, Ukraine needed to take additional steps to become NATO-eligible.

“NATO is a process that takes some time to meet all the qualifications … from democratization to a whole range of other issues,” he said.

Other NATO allies, including Britain, have been more forward-leaning in their commentary about Ukraine’s desire to join the alliance.

Sunak said recently that Ukraine’s “rightful place” is in NATO.

Biden instead has pitched what’s been dubbed a so-called “Israel option” which would commit to give Ukraine a military edge going forward. But that approach has not yet been embraced across the alliance.

“This strategy is the coward’s way out, this is about saying to Ukrainians you should be fighting and dying for democracy, we are not willing to do so,” said Benjamin Tallis, a research fellow at the German Council on Foreign Relations, which advocates extending the U.K.-led Joint Expeditionary Force, which includes nine NATO members, to incorporate Ukraine.

The U.K. is one of several countries that have publicly opposed the Biden administration’s recent decision to provide Ukraine’s military with cluster munitions, weapons that are banned by most countries in the world. On Saturday, Sunak told reporters that Britain opposed the use of cluster munitions, noting that the country was “signatory to a convention which prohibits the production or use of cluster munitions and discourages their use.”

Several leaders who will be at the Vilnius summit have also opposed the decision on cluster munitions. Spain and Canada, for example, have publicly condemned their use in recent days.

The weapons are controversial because they can leave unexploded submunitions on the ground long after a conflict, posing a danger to civilians.

Biden told CNN he had to be convinced that authorizing their use was the right move. “It was a very difficult decision on my part,” he said.

After meeting Sunak at Number 10 Downing Street, Biden is scheduled to travel to Windsor Castle for his meeting with Charles. Buckingham Palace, which has hosted past U.S. presidents, is undergoing renovations.

The two men will “engage with leading philanthropists and investors as we seek to mobilize finances, support the deployment of clean energy, and mitigate the impacts of the climate crisis in developing countries,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Sunday.

U.S. special climate envoy John F. Kerry was expected to attend as well.

Loveday Morris in Berlin contributed to this report.

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