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Biden wants to prove at the NATO summit that he is still capable of the office of president | Washington

Biden wants to prove at the NATO summit that he is still capable of the office of president | Washington

WASHINGTON – NATO leaders meeting in Washington starting Tuesday are seeking to strengthen transatlantic support for Ukraine in its fight against Russia. But for host President Joe Biden, the summit is also about showing that he is up to the tough demands of another four-year presidency.

Leaders from Europe and North America are facing the prospect of the return of NATO skeptic Donald Trump as Biden tries to salvage his re-election campaign, which has been in turmoil following his rocky performance at the June 27 debate against Trump.

The president said his work at the summit, where NATO is celebrating its 75th anniversary, is a good way to judge his continued ability to do that job. He points to his work to mobilize NATO members in their tough response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a prime example of his steady leadership and one of the reasons he deserves another four years in the White House.

“Our allies look to the United States for leadership,” Biden said in an MSNBC interview on Monday. “Who else do you think could step in and do that? I expanded NATO. I strengthened NATO. I made sure we’re in a position where we have a coalition of … nations around the world to deal with China, to deal with Russia, to deal with everything that’s going on in the world. We’re making real progress.”

Biden, who will deliver a speech later Tuesday to mark NATO’s anniversary, is trying to convince voters and donors that he is still fit for the job. He has made his case on the campaign trail, in a defiant letter to Democratic lawmakers and in friendly media interviews in recent days. Still, he faces skepticism from some longtime allies.

Six Democratic lawmakers publicly called on Biden to withdraw from his campaign; other lawmakers urged him to resign in private conversations, and several prominent donors expressed doubts about his chances of success in the race against Trump.

The White House hopes to show fickle Democrats that Biden still has what it takes during what are expected to be a busy few days of formal summit meetings, sideline talks with world leaders, lengthy diplomatic dinners and receptions, and a summit-closing press conference.

In opening remarks to the summit, Biden is expected to talk about his leadership role within NATO during his presidency and detail new steps by the U.S. and its allies to bolster Ukraine’s air defenses, according to a U.S. official familiar with the matter. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the president’s remarks in advance.

Several senior administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conversations, said the president showed a good understanding of the broader issues — the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the threat from China — but when it came to concrete, step-by-step actions that countries or groups could take to address those conflicts, Biden sometimes seemed, at worst, confused or lacking a clear view of how to deal with them.

Officials say, however, that there is no crisis of confidence – at least not yet – regarding Biden’s overall state of mind.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz told reporters on Tuesday before leaving Berlin for the summit that he had no concerns about Biden’s health. “From the many conversations I have had with the American president, I know that he has prepared this summit very well and very precisely with us,” Scholz said.

The summit will be Biden’s first opportunity to meet in-person with new British Prime Minister Keir Starmer. Biden called Starmer last week to congratulate him on his victory and plans to host him at the White House for talks on Wednesday. Biden is scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on the sidelines of the summit on Thursday.

The Labour Party leader had no concerns about Biden’s mental state during the call, according to a spokesman for the prime minister who spoke about the private call on condition of anonymity.

The leader of Italy’s anti-immigration Lega party, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini, said Biden’s “health does not seem very good to me.” “It seems to me very important for the head of the United States to be healthy,” added Salvini, a junior member of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s right-wing government.

The meeting of the heads of state and government of the 32 NATO countries – plus Pacific partner countries Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea, as well as Ukraine – is likely to be one of Biden’s last appearances at an international forum before Election Day and will take place ahead of the Republican National Convention next week in Milwaukee.

Biden is trying to emphasize his commitment to the alliance while suggesting to voters that Trump would turn his back on NATO if he returned to the White House.

Trump has repeatedly criticized NATO members for failing to meet the agreed target of spending at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense. European concerns were heightened in February when Trump warned NATO allies in a campaign speech that he would “encourage” the Russians “to do whatever they want” when he returned to the White House if NATO allies failed to meet their defense spending targets.

Trump criticized Biden for giving Ukraine “an endless stream of American money.” The Republican recently expressed openness to lending money instead, saying Ukraine’s independence is important to the United States.

Biden’s aides have pushed back, pointing to NATO’s announcement last month that 23 of 32 member states will meet the alliance’s defense spending target this year. Nine member states had already met the goal when Biden took office in 2021.

Biden also claims credit for expanding NATO. Both Finland and Sweden joined NATO following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

“This is no accident,” said John Kirby, the White House national security spokesman. “This is because of his leadership. This is because of his consistent leadership of the alliance and other partnerships around the world. The president’s record speaks for itself.”

NATO is expected to announce details of Ukraine’s path to alliance membership during the summit. NATO, which is founded on the fundamental understanding that an attack on one member is an attack on all, has stated that it will not admit Ukraine into the alliance until the end of the conflict with Russia.

Kirby said the leaders would also discuss the creation of a coordination centre in Germany to help train, equip and coordinate the logistics of Ukraine’s armed forces for their expected eventual NATO accession.

“It might be easy to look around Washington this week and see the unity and resolve and capabilities of NATO and say this is just the natural order of things,” said White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan. “But it is not just the natural order of things. It took work. It took strategy.”

As for Biden’s health, Ian Brzezinski, a senior fellow at the Washington-based think tank Atlantic Council, said he must use the summit to “significantly reverse the impression” he left with his weak debate performance.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for him to lead with force and energy, to underscore his commitment, the administration’s commitment and also the Congress’s commitment to the Alliance and to show that he brings the resolve that has made NATO so successful,” Brzezinski said.