White House officials are having early discussions about having President Joe Biden travel to Europe soon amid the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to multiple sources familiar with the planning.
The trip would come on the heels of visits by several top aides, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The White House is exploring a potential stop in Poland as well as other places in Europe, according to a person familiar with the planning.
The potential trip is being discussed as the leaders of NATO could meet in-person in Brussels as soon as next week for what would be an extraordinary summit amid Russia’s invasion, a diplomatic source familiar with the planning told CNN.
Neither Biden’s trip nor the NATO summit has been finalized or announced. If the trip does happen, it would be the one of the most closely watched visits to Europe by an American President in decades. NBC News was first to report on the discussions of the possible trip.
Russia expanded its offensive to western Ukraine on Sunday, firing missiles near the city of Lviv and hitting a large military base close to the Polish border and reportedly killing dozens of people. Poland is a NATO ally, and the military base has held joint drills with NATO and Western military personnel.
Harris visited Poland last week and sought to reinforce Western unity in the face of Russian aggression. The trip was the second time in a month that Harris was dispatched to Europe as the Biden administration seeks to rally international support behind its efforts to punish Russia for its war on Ukraine.
The vice president was tasked with smoothing over an apparent disconnect between the US and Poland over providing Ukraine with fighter jets. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been pleading for more aircraft amid the invasion, and Poland caught the United States by surprise with a proposal to provide the nation with its Soviet-era fighter jets. The Pentagon rejected Poland’s plan.
After meeting with the Polish President, Harris said at a news conference alongside the foreign leader that the two nations were “united in what we have done and are prepared to help Ukraine and the people of Ukraine.”
As fighting intensifies in Ukraine and the invasion runs into its third week, civilians are being caught in the crossfire. There have been heavy explosions in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and authorities have reported at least one person dead and multiple people injured after a residential building in a Kyiv suburb was shelled on Monday.
More than 2.5 million Ukrainian refugees have been forced to flee in the past two weeks amid the Russian invasion, according to the United Nations.
Zelensky pressed Biden during their most recent phone call for more sanctions to further squeeze Russia, CNN reported earlier Monday. The Ukrainian President asked Biden to ramp up efforts to cut Russia off from international trade and continue to target the Russian elite.
Zelensky is scheduled to deliver a virtual address to Congress on Wednesday. The Ukrainian leader is expected to renew his calls for the United States to send his country more assistance, and has also called on the US and NATO to help institute a no-fly zone over Ukraine. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg have both said such a move is not realistic and could lead to a direct conflict between Russia and NATO.
The US and its allies have issued a wide range of actions in recent weeks intended to punish Moscow for the invasion, including harsh new sanctions and export controls aimed at imposing severe costs on the Russian economy.
Biden on Friday called for suspending normal trade relations with Russia as the US and its allies look to ramp up economic pressure on Russia in retaliation for the nation launching an unprovoked attack on Ukraine. The President said G7 leaders would also seek to deny Russia the ability from borrowing from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
This story has been updated with additional information.