Biden arrives in Europe to rally allies against Russia as debilitating war in Ukraine takes its toll

The President landed in Germany late Saturday evening local time.

Still, there are big questions looming over talks in Germany and Spain, most notably whether a united Western response to the conflict can be sustained, especially now that leaders are facing the threat of a global recession and rising domestic anger over rising oil prices. gas, food and other goods. products.

Here are five things look at G7 and NATO summits:

Maintaining pressure

After several rounds of Western sanctions, Moscow feels in a quandary. But as the fighting shifted east of Kyiv, Moscow’s gradual advances have led to increased US and European anxiety about the trajectory of the war.

At the same time, sanctions on Russian oil and gas pushed up energy prices, leading to gas station problems. And the impact of the war on Ukrainian grain exports has led to a sharp rise in food prices and the threat of a famine crisis in poorer countries. This topic is expected to be discussed this week.

The ensuing political fallout has raised questions about the leaders’ willingness to continue the pressure campaign as the war continues.

“Ukraine is going to be a big deal, and the big question is whether this group can push sanctions forward,” said Matt Goodman, senior vice president of economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

Zelenskiy will call for more sanctions and more military assistance when he appears virtually at the G7 and NATO. US officials have said Biden, along with other leaders, plans to unveil moves to increase pressure on Russia over its invasion, though they declined to say what those would look like.

At the same time, Biden expects the group to discuss steps to stabilize energy markets – an issue that one official said will be “at the center of the discussion” in a castle in the Bavarian Alps where the G7 gathers.

Biden and his fellow G7 leaders agreed to announce a ban on new gold imports from Russia, a source familiar with the announcement told CNN. Gold is Russia’s second largest export commodity after energy. On Tuesday, the Treasury Department will issue a ruling banning the import of new gold into the US, which the source said “is further isolating Russia from the global economy, preventing it from participating in the gold market.”

Finding the endgame

At the start of the war, Western leaders rallied around the sanctions regime to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin. But a few months later, the question of how to end the war, and perhaps end inflation-driven sanctions, sparked tension.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who visited Kyiv for the second time last week, positions himself as Zelensky’s main ally and insists that Ukraine “must win.” Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron warned against “humiliating” Russia. And along with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, he maintains open channels of communication with the Kremlin.

This has sometimes led to disagreements with Biden, who accused Putin of genocide and war crimes and also said — at the end of his last visit to Europe — that he “cannot stay in power.” Biden’s Defense Secretary said after his visit to Ukraine that Russia needed to be “weakened.”

Biden aides insist the unity he worked hard to create remains intact.

“I mean, every country speaks for itself. Every country has concerns about what they are willing to do or not do. But as far as the alliance is concerned, it has never really been stronger or more resilient than it is today,” said John Kirby, strategic communications coordinator for the White House National Security Council.

Those differences could lead to tense conversations this week, when leaders will inevitably need to discuss how the conflict will end – either through Ukrainian concessions, more concerted work to achieve a ceasefire, or just months of endless fighting.

“I don’t think anyone can know for sure,” Kirby said this week when asked how long the war would last.

Ultimately, the biggest threat to Western resolve may be the fatigue of leaders and their populations from a war with no clear path to an end.

“It was clear from the start that it would get harder and harder as time went on because war weariness was setting in,” Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas told CNN earlier this month. “New crises are emerging, but also that we are moving on, and if we impose sanctions, then, firstly, they will hit Russia, and then our side.”

new NATO members

There was a time when this week’s NATO summit in Madrid was seen as a potential meeting for new members of the alliance. But plans to fast-track recent bids by Sweden and Finland to join have been thwarted by roadblocks set up by Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The delay has led to disappointment that what could have been a powerful message to Putin has instead become bogged down in Turkish demands.

Erdogan has accused countries of harboring “terrorist” organizations that he says threaten his country’s security, in particular Kurds from Turkey and elsewhere. He has demanded the extradition of some followers of the US-based opposition leader whom he blamed for the failed coup in 2016.

US officials remain confident that the two countries’ bids will eventually be granted. And they said Biden would likely discuss the issue on the sidelines of meetings with officials from various countries, including Turkey.

But they expressed little confidence that Erdogan’s fears could be resolved by the end of the summit, which dashed hopes of a lavish reception in Madrid.

New Focus: China

At last year’s G7 summit on the coast of Cornwall in English, Biden forced his fellow leaders to include harsh new language in the final communiqué condemning China’s human rights abuses. Leading up to the document, the group occasionally had heated conversations behind closed doors about their collective approach to China.

The topic could spark tense conversations, as some European leaders don’t necessarily share Biden’s view of China as an existential threat. However, the president has made it clear on numerous occasions that he hopes to convince fellow leaders to take a tougher stance. And Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reinforced the president’s often-voiced warnings of autocracy against democracy.

“I think it’s fair to say that last year was an important watershed for the G7, talking about China’s coercive economic practices for the first time,” a senior administration official said this week. “We expect it to be, if anything, a big topic of conversation.”

At NATO, leaders will also include China for the first time in the final “strategic concept” document, in particular the long-term challenges that China poses to European security. For the first time, the summit will feature leaders from Asia, including Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, as invited participants.

And Biden is planning a new effort to launch a global infrastructure partnership designed to advance low- and middle-income countries in yet another attempt to challenge China’s reach.

Climate commitments

The G7 countries will also discuss their goal to reduce fossil fuel use and take meaningful steps to overcome the climate crisis. But the race to phase out Russian natural gas in Europe and lower US gasoline prices has violated these countries’ climate commitments, and they are quickly running out of time to achieve their goals.

After the EU touted an accelerated transition to clean energy in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, selected European countries, including Germany and the UK, are turning back to coal to replace lost gas. And Germany is also looking for new gas supplies in Africa.

“Germany is starting to retreat, and Chancellor Scholz is considering a new gas deal with Senegal. It’s a wake-up call for G7 unity in May on moving away from fossil fuels,” Alex Scott, head of climate diplomacy and geopolitics program at Global Climate think tank E3G, told CNN. “What is happening in Germany now is sending the wrong signal.”

Similarly, Biden and his administration have made lowering gas prices their top priority at home, and Biden has recently supported a gas tax holiday opposed by many in his own party. Scott also told CNN she expects the US to make concrete commitments to phase out coal, something it has struggled to achieve in past climate talks.

“It’s time for the US to really propose a new policy,” Scott said. “It means clearing up when and how the US will end its obsession with coal. The change of government and the wave of climate ambition and the goal setting that it brought has kind of expired now.”

Caitlan Collins and Ella Nielsen of CNN contributed to this report.