President Biden and his European counterparts will convene in Brussels on Thursday for an emergency NATO summit to coordinate on military assistance to Ukraine and impose new sanctions against Russia, according to national security adviser Jake Sullivan.
“He will have the opportunity to coordinate on the next phase of military assistance to Ukraine. He will join our partners in imposing further sanctions on Russia and tightening the existing sanctions to crack down on evasion and to ensure robust enforcement,” Sullivan told reporters.
Elaborating on the subject of sanction evasion, Sullivan stated that “ensuring that there is a joint effort to crack down on evasion, on sanctions busting, on any attempt by any country to help Russia” represents one of the “key element[s]” of Thursday’s summit. This comes following Sullivan’s meeting with Chinese diplomat Yang Jiechi last week, which took place amid accusations by US officials and media outlets that Russia had courted Chinese military and economic support.
Another key element of the NATO summit will be planning for a coordinated response should the war in Ukraine escalate. Before departing the White House early Wednesday, Biden described the possibility of Russia resorting to chemical, nuclear, or cyber weapons as “a real threat.”
“Now Putin’s back is against the wall. He wasn’t anticipating the extent or the strength of our unity. And the more his back is against the wall, the greater the severity of the tactics he may employ,” the President said.
While addressing the risk of a Russian escalation, Biden will also have to reconcile emerging divisions between European allies concerning the extent of military support for Ukraine. Calls by eastern Nato members to supply Ukraine with more sophisticated equipment such as fighter jets, establish a no-fly zone, and deploy additional US troops to fortify NATO’s eastern borders have divided NATO allies over fears that doing so could escalate the conflict.
At the forefront of these more confrontational proposals is Poland, which shares a 144-mile long border with Russia and a 332-mile long border with Ukraine. The Polish government, headed by President Andrzej Duda, recently engaged in a public disagreement with the US after Poland’s offer to supply Ukraine with MiG-29 fighter jets was shut down. The Biden administration stressed that supplying fighter jets would have dramatically heightened tensions with Russia, which has said that any country housing Ukrainian aircraft would be considered a combatant in the ongoing war. Seemingly undeterred, Polish officials have called to establish an international peacekeeping force in Ukraine – a subject Polish representatives will likely raise at the summit in Brussels.
After departing Belgium, Biden will visit Poland and meet with Duda in an attempt to smooth over US-Polish relations. Biden is also expected to pledge more support to alleviate the Ukrainian refugee crisis, which has seen over 2 million displaced Ukrainians seeking refuge in Poland.
Biden’s European tour will not include a visit to Ukraine, despite Ukrainian President Zelensky’s invitation and his suggestion that doing so would demonstrate a powerful statement of solidarity.