Biden’s Day in Europe puts Ukraine issue in the spotlight

U.S. President Joe Biden takes his seat to begin the G7 leaders meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 24, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]

Western leaders have hinted at tougher sanctions on Russia for its military action in Ukraine at the three summits attended by US President Joe Biden, but disagreements remain on key issues.

Biden spent all day Thursday attending three summits – with NATO leaders, G7 leaders and European Union leaders.

In a statement after the emergency NATO summit, the military alliance expressed its full support for Ukraine and urged Russia to agree to a ceasefire and negotiations.

A statement after the G7 leaders’ meeting, also held at NATO headquarters in Brussels, warned Russia not to follow through on its threat to use “chemical, biological and nuclear weapons or related matters”.

A statement after a meeting of Biden and EU leaders said they discussed the coordinated and united EU and US response to Russia’s military actions and EU-state cooperation. United to reduce dependence on Russian fossil fuels.

At a press conference Thursday night, Biden said he had achieved the goal of “absolute unity” on three key issues between NATO and European allies, namely, supporting Ukraine with a military and humanitarian assistance, impose the most extensive sanctions regime of all time and strengthen the eastern flank of NATO allies.

Ding Chun, director of the Center for European Studies at Fudan University, said the military conflict erupting in Europe has affected EU states in multiple ways, such as the influx of refugees, rising gas prices and a blow to the EU economy, which has yet to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The EU and the US are not all the same in their approaches to the current situation,” Ding said, adding that the EU’s energy dependence on Russia will not be resolved anytime soon. short term.

“While EU member states are united in opposing Russia’s military actions, they have differences regarding the scope of economic sanctions,” he said.

Unlike the United States and Britain, EU leaders have not set a deadline to phase out Russian fossil fuels despite their promise to reduce dependence on Russian energy.

Russia now supplies around 45% of EU gas imports, 25% of oil imports and 45% of coal imports.

As some Eastern European and Baltic states have called for an oil embargo on Russia, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has said that stopping the use of Russian fuels “overnight would be tantamount to plunging our country and all of Europe in recession”.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo warned at the EU summit that an immediate and total ban on Russian oil and gas would have a “devastating impact” on Europe’s economy.

“We are not at war with ourselves,” he said.

On Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky again called for EU membership in his virtual speech at the EU summit.

However, EU leaders have just repeated their statement from a summit earlier this month in Versailles, France, to ask the European Commission to submit its opinion in accordance with EU treaties.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte put a damper on Kyiv’s hopes, declaring in the early hours of Friday morning as he left the European Council building that “EU membership is a process” and “there is no there is no fast-track membership procedure.

“If we were to do that, we would turn the access process into a political process, and that shouldn’t happen,” he said.

Agencies contributed to the story.

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