Biden and world leaders meet at 2021 NATO summit

By Zamira Rahim, Melissa Macaya and Ed Upright, CNN

Updated 2348 GMT (0748 HKT) June 14, 2021
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12:10 p.m. ET, June 14, 2021

Russia "cannot veto" Ukraine's accession to NATO, secretary general says

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says it’s not up to Russia to decide whether or not Ukraine is allowed into NATO, explaining that Moscow has no “veto” power over such a decision.

“Every nation has the right to choose its own path,” he told journalists after the NATO summit. “The message is that it is for Ukraine and the 30 allies to decide when Ukraine can become a NATO member.”

“Russia, of course, cannot say, they cannot veto what neighbors can do,” Stoltenberg concluded. 

The NATO secretary general used the example of his own country, Norway, as well as the Baltic nations, whose accession to NATO also did not please Russia.

“We will not return to an age when we had big powers who decided what neighbors could do,” he said. “This is about fundamental principles of accepting the right of every nation to decide, so it’s for the 30 allies and Ukraine to decide when Ukraine is ready for membership.”

12:19 p.m. ET, June 14, 2021

There is "no way" NATO can ignore China's economic and military rise, secretary general says

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio

Olivier Hosle/Pool/AP
Olivier Hosle/Pool/AP

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says there is “no way” NATO can ignore China’s economic and military rise, highlighting its investment “new destructive technologies” that have the potential to change the nature of warfare. 

“China is soon to be the biggest economy in the world, they already have the second biggest defense budget and hold the biggest navy,” Stoltenberg told journalists after the summit. “They are investing heavily in new modern capabilities, including by investing in new destructive technologies, such as autonomous systems, facial recognition and artificial intelligence and putting them into different weapons systems that are really in the process of changing the nature of warfare in a way we have hardly seen before.”

“This matters for our security,” Stoltenberg concluded. “There’s no way to deny that so the question is how we address that.”

The NATO secretary general also said he was pleased with the fact that there was now a “united and clear position” on China, which had not been the case. 

11:57 a.m. ET, June 14, 2021

NATO leaders agree to provide funds to maintain Kabul International Airport

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio

This July 2015 file photo shows the Hamid Karzai International airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.
This July 2015 file photo shows the Hamid Karzai International airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. Massoud Hossaini/AP

NATO leaders have agreed to provide “transitional funding” to ensure that the international airport in Kabul continues to operate, given its significance to the landlocked country of Afghanistan. 

“Recognising its importance to an enduring diplomatic and international presence, as well as to Afghanistan's connectivity with the world, NATO will provide transitional funding to ensure continued functioning of Hamid Karzai International Airport,” the North Atlantic alliance leaders said in the communiqué. “We will also step up dialogue on Afghanistan with relevant international and regional partners.”

“We are working on exactly how to do it but there is a strong commitment from NATO,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said after the meeting, adding that Turkey has been playing a key role in discussions around the issue. 

 The alliance will also retain a Senior Civilian Representative Office in the Afghan capital, in addition to providing “training and financial support to the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, including through the Afghan National Army Trust Fund.”

“We continue to support the ongoing Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process, and call on all stakeholders to help Afghanistan foster a lasting inclusive political settlement that puts an end to violence; safeguards the human rights of Afghans, particularly women, children, and minorities; upholds the rule of law; and ensures that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists,” NATO leaders also said in the communiqué.

11:42 a.m. ET, June 14, 2021

NATO heard strong message from Biden, secretary general says

From CNN’s Vasco Cotovio

U.S. President Joe Biden arrives for the NATO summit at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels on June 14, 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden arrives for the NATO summit at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) headquarters in Brussels on June 14, 2021. Francois Mori/Pool/AFP/Getty Images

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says the mood at the summit was like “first day back at school” and recalled what he called a “strong message” delivered by US President Joe Biden.

“It was really great to be together and to meet together in person, as a truly transatlantic family or as prime minister Johnson said, it was like the first day back at school seeing all your old friends again and that was really the atmosphere in the room,” he told journalists after the summit. 

“We heard a strong message from President Biden on America’s commitment to NATO,” Stoltenberg went on to say, adding that all the remaining allies had made “an equally strong commitment” in return. 

“All leaders agreed that in an age of global competition Europe and North America must stand strong together in NATO, to defend our values and our interests, especially at a time when authoritarian regimes, like Russia and China challenge the rules based international order,” he also said. 

11:40 a.m. ET, June 14, 2021

NATO leaders issue joint communiqué, highlight Russia and China

From CNN's Vasco Cotovio

NATO leaders pose for a group photo during a NATO summit in Brussels, Monday, June 14, 2021.
NATO leaders pose for a group photo during a NATO summit in Brussels, Monday, June 14, 2021. Yves Herman/Pool/AP

The heads of state and government of NATO member states have issued a communiqué highlighting the “threat” presented by Russia and the “challenges” posed by China, following a meeting on Monday. 

“We face multifaceted threats, systemic competition from assertive and authoritarian powers, as well as growing security challenges to our countries and our citizens from all strategic directions,” the communiqué read. “Russia’s aggressive actions constitute a threat to Euro-Atlantic security.”

“China’s growing influence and international policies can present challenges that we need to address together as an Alliance,” the statement added. “We will engage China with a view to defending the security interests of the Alliance.”

You can read the full communiqué here.

11:06 a.m. ET, June 14, 2021

NATO leaders back US decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

NATO leaders meeting in Brussels today have largely backed the US decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, according to a senior administration official present for the talks.

Some American allies had griped ahead of the summit that they weren’t properly consulted before Biden announced he would withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11. Others have questioned how security can be maintained in the country when US troops leave, particularly at Kabul International Airport and at other diplomatic facilities.

The official, who was present for the closed-door NATO talks, said there was unanimity among countries who had contributed troops to the Afghanistan mission that the withdrawal was the right decision.

“Each of them said that they ultimately agreed with the decision to draw down this year. They understood that the time has come. And the real focus in the room was not on the question of staying or going in 2021, the real focus was on how we work together as an alliance to continue to provide support to the Afghan national security forces, the Afghan government and the Afghan people,” the official said.

Now, NATO leaders are discussing practical ways to maintain security in Afghanistan, including embassy presence, security training, counterterrorism efforts and economic aid.

The official said despite reports of friction among NATO allies over the Afghanistan decision, “that is not the vibe in the room today.”

“There's an incredible amount of warmth and unity around the entire agenda, including the ‘in-together-out-together’ aspect of the Afghanistan drawdown,” the official said.

10:32 a.m. ET, June 14, 2021

Biden delivers remarks behind closed doors at NATO, meets with other leaders 

From CNN's Kevin Liptak in Brussels

From left, Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Croatia's President Zoran Milanovic, Poland's President Andrzej Duda and U.S. President Joe Biden pose during a group photo at a NATO summit in Brussels, Monday, June 14, 2021.
From left, Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, Croatia's President Zoran Milanovic, Poland's President Andrzej Duda and U.S. President Joe Biden pose during a group photo at a NATO summit in Brussels, Monday, June 14, 2021. Francois Walshaerts/Pool/AP

US President Joe Biden delivered remarks behind closed doors at a NATO summit in Brussels and met on the sidelines with leaders from Poland, Romania and the Baltic states, according to a senior administration official.

The talks centered mainly on Russia, the official said, ahead of Biden's summit with Vladimir Putin on Wednesday.

Biden communicated to the Baltic leaders that the US wants a "stable and constructive relationship with Russia, but also will respond in the face of Russia's harmful activities," the official said.

China also arose in the conversations, the official said, adding they also discussed Belarus, and in particular "air piracy" in light of the recent forced diversion of a Ryanair flight bound for Vilnius.

Similar themes emerged in his meeting with the Polish and Romanian leaders. He discussed his intentions for the summit with Putin and offered a commitment to "stand up at the face of the threat posed by Russia."

Biden spoke more in-depth with Poland's President Andrzej Duda to go deeper on security cooperation.

At NATO, Biden has also spoken to the prime ministers of Spain and the Netherlands, along with G7 leaders who traveled from the summit in Cornwall to NATO.

Here is the official readout of Biden's meeting with President Duda of Poland:

"President Biden spoke today on the margins of the NATO Summit with President Andrzej Duda of Poland. The President reiterated his support for NATO’s strengthened defense and deterrence agenda and his resolute commitment to the defense of Allies on NATO’s eastern flank, including Poland. He discussed his plans for the upcoming summit with President Putin."
10:02 a.m. ET, June 14, 2021

NATO communiqué expected to highlight China for first time, senior official says

From CNN’s Saskya Vandoorne in Brussels

Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the Leaders Summit on Climate via video in Beijing on April 22.
Chinese President Xi Jinping attends the Leaders Summit on Climate via video in Beijing on April 22. Huang Jingwen/Xinhua/Getty Images

A draft version of the NATO summit communiqué that the leaders of the North Atlantic alliance member states are expected to approve on Monday will, for the first time, highlight China’s military ambitions, a senior official from a NATO member state told CNN.

The contents of the draft communiqué were first reported by the New York Times.

Despite its novel emphasis on China, the 45 page and 79 paragraph long draft still describes Beijing as presenting “challenges,” whereas Russia is clearly labelled as a “threat.”

China was also a key topic at the G7 summit over the weekend in England. One of Biden's major proposals to the group was a global infrastructure program meant to compete with China's Belt and Road initiative and was included in the summit's final statement. But it didn't include any specific commitments from countries on how much they're willing to contribute.

CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed reporting to this post.

9:10 a.m. ET, June 14, 2021

Here's what the UK and Turkey discussed on the sidelines of the NATO summit

From CNN’s Sarah Dean in London

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels, Belgium, on June 14.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson meets with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels, Belgium, on June 14. Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed cooperation between the two countries on Covid-19, trade and defense as they met on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Brussels, according to a readout of the meeting issued by the UK prime minister's office.

Here's a full readout of the meeting from a Downing Street spokesperson:  

“The Prime Minister met Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the NATO Summit in Brussels today. 
“The Prime Minister and President discussed the fight against coronavirus and their countries’ respective vaccine rollouts. They agreed on the importance of working together to defeat the pandemic and work towards the resumption of travel between the UK and Turkey. 
“The leaders agreed to work to deepen the relationship between the UK and Turkey in a range of areas including trade and defence. 
“The Prime Minister welcomed the de-escalation of tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and stressed the importance of reaching a settlement in Cyprus through the UN-led process. 
“The Prime Minister and President also discussed a range of other foreign policy issues including Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.”