US President Joe Biden emerged from an emergency meeting with top allies during his final day at the G20 in Indonesia promising to “figure out exactly what happened” after a Russian-made missile fell inside the borders of a NATO ally.
“We agreed to support Poland’s investigations into the explosion in rural Poland near the Ukrainian border and we’re gonna make sure we figure out exactly what happened,” Biden told reporters following his emergency roundtable with leaders at the G20 Summit.
Biden added, “Then we’re gonna collectively determine next step as we investigate.”
The president had just exited the meeting in Bali on Wednesday morning local time. The talks came after Poland’s foreign ministry said late Tuesday that the “Russian-made missile” fell on the village of Przewodów. On Wednesday, Polish President Andrzej Duda said that the missile that landed in Poland on Tuesday was “probably an accident” from the Ukrainian side while intercepting incoming Russian missiles.
The statement appeared to confirm something that Biden alluded to earlier when speaking to the press after being asked if the missile was fired from Russia.
“There is preliminary information that contests that,” he answered.
He added, “I don’t want to say that until we completely investigate. It’s unlikely in the minds of the trajectory that it was fired from Russia. But we’ll see.”
The Russian Defense Ministry had denied that there were strikes made on targets near the Ukrainian-Polish state border.
Biden and leaders from the G7 and NATO were in the roundtable. The meeting included Biden and leaders from Canada, the European Union, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Netherlands, and Japan, the officials said.
The president said that there was “total unanimity among folks at the table” about how to respond to the incident. He did not provide other information about the source of the missile.
During a call with Duda earlier, Biden “expressed deep condolences for the loss of life in Eastern Poland earlier this evening,” the White House said in a readout.
“President Duda described Poland’s ongoing assessment of the explosion that took place in the eastern part of the country near the border with Ukraine. President Biden offered full US support for and assistance with Poland’s investigation,” the readout continued.
Biden “reaffirmed the United States’ ironclad commitment to NATO” and the leaders agreed to have their teams “remain in close touch to determine appropriate next steps as the investigation proceeds.”
At the summit, Biden and most G20 members have been slated to sign onto a statement condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine “and the human suffering it has caused both for Ukrainians and for families in the developing world that are facing food and fuel insecurity as a result,” according to a senior administration official previewing the statement. Such an expression of condemnation has been the work of months of diplomacy between G20 leaders. However, it’s not clear yet exactly which countries will sign onto the declaration.
Before beginning a long journey back to Washington, Biden participated in a mangrove tree planting with other G20 leaders. He also met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom for the first time since Sunak took office last month.
Sunak ascended to the prime minister role late last month when he replaced Liz Truss, now the shortest-serving prime minister in UK history. Truss resigned six weeks into a term that plunged Britain into political and economic turmoil. Sunak is the first person of color and the first Hindu to lead the UK. He is also the youngest person to take the office in more than 200 years.
Split screen moment
White House officials were expecting a split screen moment this week as Biden met world leaders in Bali at the same moment his predecessor was announcing a third presidential run.
But the dynamic was amplified as Biden convened the emergency talks at the same hour Trump loyalists filled the Mar-a-Lago ballroom for former President Donald Trump’s announcement.
Biden was leading the crisis talks with members of the G7 and NATO in Bali – two groupings Trump questioned the usefulness of when he was in office.
Less than 10 minutes after he finished speaking to reporters, Trump walked on stage at Mar-a-Lago.
Heading into the trip, Biden’s advisers were not particularly concerned about the split-screen and, after Democrats’ better-than-expected midterm elections, were even less wary of Trump announcing a third bid for president while Biden was in Asia.
For one, Biden officials are happy to take the comparison between the current president and the former on the foreign stage, given the general chaos that often trailed Trump as he traveled abroad.
Biden’s team also believe the president’s newfound acclaim among Democrats compares favorably to Trump’s post-midterms status within the Republican Party — still an evolving picture, but showing signs of erosion.
Trump’s announcement will surely prompt renewed attention on Biden’s on decision-making on running for reelection. By all accounts, including from his closest advisers, Biden will feel more propelled to seek a second term if Trump is in contention.
Throughout the course of his meetings in Asia this week, Biden has been approached by fellow leaders bearing congratulations following the midterm results, a signal the American political contests were being closely monitored by leaders on the opposite side of the world.
It was a phenomenon that surprised some of his aides, particularly the specificity with which many of the leaders were watching. It was a sign, according to one senior administration official, that the stakes of the midterm elections extended well beyond US borders. Biden himself had framed the contest as putting democracy on the ballot — stakes that leaders in foreign capitals were highly attuned to as they work to determine which way the political winds are blowing in the United States.
Ahead of the elections, foreign diplomats posted to Washington traveled the country working to suss out the political temperature, all with the goal of determining whether Trump could be poised for a political comeback.
If the collection of election deniers and Trump acolytes vying for office amounted to a signal that the former president’s influence was still alive within Republican politics – and that his return to the White House remained a distinct possibility – the widespread rejection of those candidates last week sent an alternate signal abroad.
For Biden, the timing could not have been more opportune. The prospect of a midterm wipeout loomed over preparations for his around-the-world trip over the last several weeks. Widespread Republican wins – including by election deniers – would badly complicate the president’s bedrock message that Democracies will win out against autocracies.
Trump’s tease of a campaign announcement at the very moment Biden would be rallying the world behind democratic ideals only elevated the stakes.