US President Joe Biden arrived in Brussels as NATO, G7 and EU summits on Thursday (24 March) are due to discuss how to respond to Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
America’s leadership of the “collective West” appears strengthened after Washington’s predictions that Putin will indeed launch a war in Ukraine proved correct.
According to some reports, the success of the Ukrainian army against the Russian aggressor seems to have been facilitated by good planning and military assistance from the United States.
The war has so far driven more than 3.6 million refugees to flee the country and has already led to an unprecedented isolation of the Russian economy through a series of internationally coordinated sanctions.
First up in the morning, NATO leaders are due to meet on how to address the security side of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
They are set to agree additional support for Kyiv, which will also include protective equipment against the potential use of chemical and nuclear weapons in the country.
In recent days, Russia and Western governments have traded accusations about the possibility of a chemical weapons attack in Ukraine without producing evidence to back up their worries.
NATO leaders are also expected to agree to bolster the alliance’s military presence in Eastern Europe with four new battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia and review the current status of plans recently. activated for their defense of the eastern flank.
Energy dispute to come?
After that, a meeting of G7 leaders, convened by the German president, is expected to agree to coordinate the application of sanctions and plan to issue a statement. In addition to EU members Germany, France and Italy, the G7 includes Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan.
In the evening, EU leaders will host Biden in downtown Brussels for talks on energy issues amid Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
“At our meeting in Versailles, we agreed to reduce our dependence on Russian gas, oil and coal imports as soon as possible,” European Council President Charles Michel wrote in his invitation letter to leaders. of the EU.
“We must now take immediate action to safeguard our energy supply for the coming winter,” Michel wrote, adding that European leaders must “urgently address how, in the weeks and months ahead come, we can ease the pressure of high energy prices on our citizens and businesses.
Biden’s visit could therefore lay bare a dispute over whether to impose new energy sanctions with European allies, some of whom are heavily dependent on Russian oil and gas.
Russia supplies around 40% of the natural gas used by Europe, making it difficult for several European countries to ban imports of Russian energy as the United States has done.
The issue has been a “substantial” topic and has been the subject of “intense back and forth” in recent days, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters.
The European Commission had proposed banning the import of oil from Russia as part of the fifth round of sanctions against Moscow.
EU member states are divided over the ban as some countries, including Germany, say the bloc is too dependent on fossil fuels from Russia to resist such a move.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, one of the bloc’s fiercest opponents, warned on Wednesday March 23 that a an immediate ban on Russian energy would trigger a recession in Germany and across Europe.
No new penalties?
A Commission source told EURACTIV that there is unlikely to be a fifth sanctions package against Russia agreed on Thursday.
“We will wait to see the impact of the existing sanctions on the Russian economy first and the next sanctions will depend on Russia’s escalation on the battlefield,” the source said.
The same source said the decision to jointly supply gas, LNG and hydrogen – as was the case for vaccines – means that Europe will buy cheap energy from other countries.
Washington is looking for ways to boost supplies of liquefied natural gas to Europe in the coming weeks, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Wednesday.
He added that reducing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas had been the subject of intense prior discussions.
EU leaders are also expected to discuss China, after Biden warned Chinese President Xi Jinping not to provide material support to Russia in its war against Ukraine, as Moscow demanded from Beijing.
It also comes as the EU prepares for an EU-China summit, to be held on April 1, of which the war in Ukraine will be the main topic.
Ukraine’s perspective on the EU
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is due to address NATO and EU leaders on Thursday.
kyiv on Wednesday appealed for Western military aid and denounced Russian “war crimes” in besieged locations, including the port of Mariupol where it says mass starvation is possible.
At their Versailles summit earlier this month, EU leaders refrained from concrete commitments on Ukraine’s call for early membership of the bloc, but concluded that the country “belongs to the family European”.
Earlier, the European Commission was instructed to prepare an opinion, the so-called “opinionabout the country’s willingness to open negotiations, which can take weeks to months.
A statement from the current summit, seen by EURACTIV, makes no reference to a European perspective for Ukraine, but mainly deals with Russia’s aggression against the country.
Sarantis Michalopoulos contributed to this report.
(Editing by Georgi Gotev)