President Joe Biden is working to strengthen Western unity at a series of summits in Europe this week where new sanctions will be announced against Russia over its war in Ukraine, a top U.S. official said on Tuesday.
Biden left Wednesday for Brussels a day before a summit with NATO and the Council of Europe, then traveled to Poland on Friday for a meeting with President Andrzej Duda the next day.
Intense diplomacy marks an important moment in a dangerous dispute between the newly revived transatlantic alliance and President Vladimir Putin, who a month ago sent Russian troops to pro-Western Ukraine to try and raise the balance of European power.
White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that Biden will work to “strengthen the extraordinary unity we build with allies and partners.”
He also said that unprecedented economic sanctions aimed at crippling Russia’s finances would be stepped up.
Further packages will be “launched with our allies on Thursday,” Sullivan said. He gave no details, other than to say the package “will focus not only on the addition of new sanctions but to ensure there is a joint effort to combat circumvention of sanctions.”
Another big topic looming for the Western alliance is how to manage China, the world’s second -largest economy and Russia’s authoritarian partner.
Beijing refuses to condemn Putin’s war or support Western sanctions. So far, Washington’s main goal has been to ensure the Chinese do not actively intervene on the part of the Kremlin, either by rescuing the Russian economy or sending weapons.
Sullivan said there was no sign that China was providing military assistance following a nearly two-hour phone call between President Xi Jinping and Biden last Friday.
“This is something we are monitoring closely,” he said.
– ‘Tough days ahead’ –
“The president will certainly consult on the question of the possibility of China’s participation in the Ukraine conflict while he is in Brussels. He will do so in NATO,” Sullivan said.
“He will also do so when he addresses the 27 leaders of the European Union, because on April 1, the European Union is holding a summit with China,” he added.
“We believe we are on the same page as our European partners.”
While Western -armed Ukrainian troops managed to resist most Russian attacks, Sullivan warned against any presumption that the war would end quickly or an ascent by Moscow.
“There will be difficult days ahead in Ukraine, the hardest for the Ukrainian army on the front lines and civilians under Russian bombing,” he said. “This war will not end easily or quickly.”
In a frenzy for Biden’s travel plans, his chief spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, will have to stay home because of a Covid-19 positive test announced Tuesday.
The White House press secretary said he had held two social distance meetings with Biden, who had been vaccinated, the day before.
However, “the president tested negative today through a PCR test,” Psaki said in a statement, adding that Biden, 79, “is not considered a close relationship” as defined by the top U.S. health agency.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)