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The war in Ukraine topped the agenda for Biden and Sunak ahead of a key NATO meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, although Biden has said the war will need to end before the alliance can consider asking Kyiv to join.
The meeting comes after the Pentagon announced the United States would provide cluster munitions to Ukraine to boost its military in the fight against Russia — a move Sunak has made clear he disapproved of.
What to know about Biden's Europe trip
- Biden held talks with Sunak, during which the two leaders discussed the U.S. decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, a Downing Street spokesperson said. The United Kingdom is a signatory to a convention that discourages their use.
- Biden also held his first meeting with King Charles since his coronation.
- The much-anticipated NATO summit is the centerpiece of the trip, during which alliance leaders will debate the war in Ukraine and revise plans for dealing with Russian aggression.
- The final leg of the trip will be in Helsinki, where Biden on Thursday is expected to celebrate the expanding alliance, with Finland as the newest member of NATO.
Biden lands in Vilnius for upcoming NATO summit
Biden landed at the airport in Vilnius, Lithuania, and was greeted by Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda. Also attending Biden's arrival was Lithuania's ambassador to the United States, Audra Plepyte, and the U.S. ambassador to Lithuania, Robert Gilchrist, the White House said.
The summit will take place tomorrow and Wednesday.
Biden and Sunak discussed U.S. sending cluster munitions to Ukraine
Biden and Prime Minister Sunak discussed the cluster munitions that the U.S. is sending to Ukraine during their bilateral meeting Monday, a White House official said.
Sunak noted to Biden that while the U.K. is legally prohibited from providing the bombs themselves, he understood it was a difficult decision and why the U.S. is providing them to Ukraine, the official said.
The Pentagon announced Friday that the U.S. was providing cluster munitions to Ukraine. The weapons disperse small munitions or bombs over wide areas that can explode after battle and sometimes injure or kill innocent people.
Bids for NATO or E.U. membership 'two processes,' E.U. spokesperson says
Dana Spinant, a spokesperson for the European Commission, said Monday that bids for NATO or E.U. membership are "two processes” that can't be linked, Reuters reported.
Spinant's comments came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would back Sweden's NATO bid if European countries greenlight Turkey's bid to join the E.U., Reuters reported.
While Ukraine tops agenda, China's 'in the background,' expert says
While Ukraine is at the top of the agenda of Biden's trip to Europe, China is "always there in the background as the longer-term challenge to the USA and the West," an expert in international relations and British foreign policy told NBC News.
Noting that the British government recently described China as an “epoch-defining challenge” in a review of the British government’s security, defense, development and foreign policy priorities, Tim Oliver, a senior lecturer at the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance at Loughborough University London, said Beijing would likely be on both Biden and Sunak's minds during the president's visit.
"Russia is — and the U.K. government was also clear on this — the more immediate threat, but in the U.K. the threat perception of China is growing," Oliver said.
'Special relationship' between U.S. and U.K. remains 'very strong,' expert says
The "special relationship" between the U.S. and the U.K. remains "very strong," an expert in international relations and British foreign policy said as Biden and Prime Minister Sunak met amid differences over the war in Ukraine.
"All premierships and administrations have their differences defined by the personalities of the occupants of the Oval Office and 10 Downing Street," said Tim Oliver, a senior lecturer at the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance at Loughborough University London following the leaders' meeting. "While they color the relationship, especially headlines for domestic political purposes, they don’t challenge or change the foundations, which remain very strong."
Winston Churchill, the former prime minister, coined the phrase to describe the alliance between Britain and the U.S. during his historic address at Westminster College on March 5, 1946, according to the International Churchill Society. The state of the relationship is frequently referred to in the British press, particularly when the leaders of both countries meet.
"The core of the (special relationship) is intelligence sharing, special forces, and nuclear weapons, three areas the U.K. and U.S. trust each other in ways they don’t with others," Oliver wrote in an email. "That trust is built by officials and military personnel working very closely together, as they have been for decades."
Erdogan: Turkey will back Sweden's NATO bid if Europe 'opens the way' for E.U. membership
Turkey will back Sweden’s bid to join NATO if European countries "open the way" for Ankara's European Union bid, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday.
“Come and open the way for Turkey at the European Union, and then we will open the way for Sweden, just as we did for Finland,” Erdogan told reporters Monday, according to Reuters. He was referring to Finland’s ascension to the military alliance in April, which Turkey initially blocked.
Erdogan’s office said he told President Biden in a call Sunday that his country required a “clear and strong” message of support for their E.U. ambitions at the forthcoming NATO summit, though the Biden administration's readout of the call did not mention Turkey's E.U. bid.
Sweden announced its intention to join NATO in May 2022, three months after Russia invaded Ukraine. But countries that wish to join the alliance must obtain unanimous consent of all member countries, and Turkey has blocked Sweden's NATO bid, citing its alleged support of Kurdish militias, who Ankara calls terrorists.
Marine One, carrying President Biden, takes off from Windsor Castle outside London on Monday:
Photos: Biden and King Charles at Windsor
What's happening in Ukraine ahead of NATO summit?
Kyiv said its troops were advancing in the east and south of the country, and had the entrances and exits of the key occupied city of Bakhmut within firing range.
The Russians seized Bakhmut in May after months of fighting in a major boost for President Vladimir Putin. Now Ukraine may be attempting to recapture the city, which has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance.
Kyiv is in the middle of a counteroffensive to take back occupied land from Russia with the help of Western-supplied equipment and ammunition.
Russia continues to shell Ukrainian cities. In the town of Orikhiv in the Zaporizhzhia region, four people were killed and 11 injured during the bombing of a residential area, local authorities said. Moscow denies targeting civilian structures in Ukraine.
Biden and Sunak discussed Ukraine security, Downing Street says
Biden and Sunak spoke about the need to support Kyiv in bringing an end to the war in Ukraine as it approaches the 18-month mark, Sunak's spokesperson said.
“They discussed the progress of the counteroffensive and emphasized the importance of the country’s international partners committing to its long-term defense, providing the support Ukraine needs to win this war and secure a just and lasting peace,” the aide said.
Ahead of the NATO summit in Vilnius, Ukraine is pressing for new security guarantees, with the issue expected to flare up as the 31 leaders meet this week. Yet, leaders of the countries that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are not in agreement about how to achieve security for Ukraine.
Biden said of Ukraine in an interview with CNN that aired Sunday, “I don’t think it’s ready for membership in NATO.” Meanwhile, Reuters reported that Sunak wants to discuss a pathway for Ukraine to join the alliance but has not provided an “exact mechanism.”
Scholz: Israel-style security guarantees for Ukraine one of several options
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said today that the U.S. suggestion of Israel-style security guarantees for Ukraine is one of several options being discussed and added that talks on the issue are far from being finished.
Biden, who is en route to Lithuania, told CNN on Sunday that Washington was ready to provide security to Ukraine in the mold of what it provides to Israel — “the weaponry they need, the capacity to defend themselves.”
Biden and Sunak discuss cluster munitions for Ukraine
Biden discussed his decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine during a meeting with Sunak this morning, a spokesperson for the prime minister said.
The U.K. is a signatory to a convention that discourages their use and won’t supply them, but Sunak told Biden that it was up to each country to make its own determination, said the aide, according to Reuters.
“We stand by our obligations under the convention, which include discouraging their use. There is no change from us on that. Obviously it is for each country to make a decision,” the spokesperson said.
Biden, in an interview with CNN that aired Sunday, said that it was a “difficult decision” to send the munitions, but that it was necessary as Ukraine calls for more weaponry.
What to expect from the NATO summit in Vilnius
Biden is set to travel to Vilnius today following his meeting with Charles in Windsor to attend a summit with NATO members.
The president's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters Friday that Biden is expected to hold a meeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda and meet with all NATO leaders, as well as NATO partners from Europe and the Indo-Pacific.
"They will discuss a range of subjects, from strengthening NATO’s eastern flank to modernizing NATO’s deterrence and defense capabilities," he said. "At the summit, the president and our allies will demonstrate our unity and resolve in support of Ukraine."
After the summit concludes, Biden is scheduled to deliver a major address in Vilnius on Wednesday evening. That speech will focus on his "vision of a strong, confident America flanked by strong, confident allies and partners taking on the significant challenges of our time, from Russia’s aggression in Ukraine to the climate crisis," Sullivan said.
Charles and Biden inspect the guard of honor at Windsor Castle
Biden meets Charles at Windsor Castle
Biden traveled aboard Marine One from London to Windsor Castle, where he met with Charles, who greeted the president with a handshake.
The two could be seen inspecting a guard of honor held by members of the Welsh Guards.
This is their first meeting since the king’s coronation, which Biden did not attend, with first lady Jill Biden going in his place.
Photograph shows members of the Welsh Guards preparing ahead of a guard of honor to be inspected by Biden and Charles at Windsor Castle, outside London.
Biden traveling to Windsor Castle with Blinken, senior White House officials
Biden is traveling aboard Marine One to Windsor Castle with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and several senior White House officials, according to the White House.
The others include national security adviser Jake Sullivan; Jen O'Malley Dillon, assistant to the president and deputy chief of staff; and Annie Tomasini, assistant to the president and senior adviser to the president and director of Oval Office operations.
Biden departs 10 Downing St.
Sunak bid farewell to Biden as the president departed 10 Downing St. following talks between the two world leaders.
Biden will now make his way to Windsor Castle, where he will meet Charles for the first time since the monarch's coronation, which Biden did not attend.
Biden and Sunak sit down for ... tea?
Biden and Sunak sat down and shared drinks (presumably tea) in the garden of 10 Downing St. shortly after the president's arrival.
The cups they drank out of appear to be official No. 10 cups, bearing a depiction of the exterior of the building, as well as the label: "10 Downing St. London."
It's about 71 degrees Fahrenheit and cloudy, with some pockets of sunshine in London this morning, so ideal weather for a garden visit.
Photo: Sunak welcomes Biden outside 10 Downing St.
Larry the cat, chief mouser at 10 Downing St., briefly stole the spotlight ahead of Biden's arrival.
The feline was spotted outside, appearing to ready the red carpet for the president.
A warm greeting between Biden and Sunak
Biden and Sunak appeared to share a warm greeting outside 10 Downing St. this morning.
Both leaders had wide smiles as they shook hands before walking inside.
Biden's motorcade has arrived at 10 Downing St., where the president is expected to hold talks with the British leader.
The war in Ukraine will be at the top of the agenda in today's talks.
War in Ukraine must end before Kyiv can join NATO, Biden says
Biden has said Russia’s war in Ukraine would need to end before NATO can consider adding Kyiv to the alliance.
Biden told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that discussion around Ukraine joining NATO was premature, but he said the U.S. and its allies in NATO would continue to provide Kyiv with weaponry and support to end the war.
“I don’t think there is unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, at this moment, in the middle of a war,” Biden said. “For example, if you did that, then, you know — and I mean what I say — we’re determined to commit every inch of territory that is NATO territory. It’s a commitment that we’ve all made no matter what.”
“If the war is going on, then we’re all in war. We’re at war with Russia, if that were the case,” he said.
Photo: Members of the media await Biden at 10 Downing St.
Reporters are gathered outside 10 Downing St. in central London ahead of Biden’s visit.
Talks come as Sunak speaks out against use of cluster munitions
Biden’s meeting with Sunak comes after the British prime minister expressed disapproval of the use of cluster munitions following the U.S. decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine.
Sunak said over the weekend that the U.K. “discourages” the use of cluster bombs after the U.S. announced its decision to give them to Kyiv.
Some human rights groups oppose the use of cluster munitions because of concerns that unexploded bomblets, or duds, could explode after battle, potentially injuring or killing innocent civilians.
Sunak noted that the U.K. was one of at least 123 countries that signed a convention banning use of cluster munitions, saying: “We will continue to do our part to support Ukraine against Russia’s illegal and unprovoked invasion, but we’ve done that by providing heavy battle tanks and most recently long-range weapons, you know, and hopefully all countries can continue to support Ukraine.”
Photo: Biden lands outside London late yesterday
What to expect today
Biden will face a busy day of talks and meetings aimed at strengthening the "special relationship" between the U.S. and U.K. today.
The president is expected to first hold talks with Sunak at No. 10 Downing St. The talks will mark the sixth meeting between the two world leaders since Sunak took office last October.
Biden is later expected to visit Charles at Windsor Castle, a royal residence outside London. This will be their first meeting since the king's coronation, which Biden did not attend, with first lady Jill Biden going in his place.
Biden kicks off Europe trip with London visit
Biden launched his trip to Europe today with a visit to Britain's capital, where he will meet with Sunak and Charles.
The two world leaders will look to strengthen the "special relationship" between their two countries — an alliance that has been tested by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
The war in Ukraine will be at the top of the agenda, with Biden and Sunak expected to discuss the counteroffensive, as well as Ukraine’s bid to join NATO.