President Joe Biden will travel to Europe next week to meet with world leaders and discuss Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.
The President will travel to Brussels, Belgium, to participate in a NATO summit on March 24 and will also join a European Council meeting, Psaki told reporters at a White House briefing.
The trip, which will be one of the most closely watched visits to Europe by an American president in decades, comes weeks after Russia launched an unprovoked attack on Ukraine. Biden will “discuss ongoing deterrence and defense efforts,” during the NATO summit and reaffirm the US’ commitment to its NATO allies, Psaki said.
“He will also join a scheduled European Council summit to discuss our shared concerns about Ukraine, including trans-Atlantic efforts to impose economic costs on Russia, provide humanitarian support to those affected by the violence and address other challenges related to the conflict,” she said.
Psaki noted the President is a “big believer in face-to-face diplomacy,” and his goal is to meet with European counterparts in person to discuss “where we are at this point” with regard to the invasion.
“We’ve been incredibly aligned to date – that doesn’t happen by accident,” Psaki said.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted earlier on Tuesday: “I have convened an extraordinary Summit on 24 March at #NATO HQ. We will address #Russia’s invasion of #Ukraine, our strong support for Ukraine, and further strengthening NATO’s deterrence & defence. At this critical time, North America & Europe must continue to stand together.”
CNN had previously reported White House officials were discussing about having Biden travel to Europe and that Poland could be a stop.
American and European officials are discussing potential announcements for Western leaders to make at the summit, according to people familiar with the plans, though as of right now there is no agreement on “deliverables” to come from the crisis talks.
Biden hopes to use the session to illustrate Western unity amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and having a major announcement could help underscore cooperation among the allies. But one European official said the discussions haven’t yet settled on a single decision or takeaway for the summit to produce.
Major items that Ukraine wants, like establishing a no-fly zone or providing fighter jets, appear for now off the table. That means any announcement coming out of the meetings would likely focus more on ramping up smaller-scale assistance that’s already being provided, financial aid or new sanctions on Russia.
Russia on Sunday fired missiles and hit a large military base close to the Polish border, reportedly killing dozens of people. Poland is a NATO ally, and the military base has held joint drills with NATO and other Western military personnel.
The trip would come on the heels of visits by several top Biden aides, including Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The prime ministers of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic are traveling to Kyiv on Tuesday to meet Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Fatalities were reported after shelling hit buildings in residential areas across Kyiv on Tuesday morning, according to Ukrainian authorities. New satellite images show widespread destruction across Ukraine, including damaged houses in a village near Kyiv and smoldering homes in the besieged city of Mariupol, where more than 2,500 civilians have died, Ukrainian officials estimate.
Zelensky is scheduled to deliver a virtual address on Wednesday to members of Congress.
During their most recent phone call, Zelensky pressed Biden for more sanctions to further squeeze Russia, CNN has reported. The Ukrainian President asked Biden to ramp up efforts to cut Russia off from international trade and continue to target the Russian elite. Zelensky has also called for the US and NATO to establish a no-fly zone over Ukraine. But Blinken and Stoltenberg have both said such a move is not realistic and could lead to a direct conflict between Russia and NATO.
This story has been updated with additional information.