US President Joe Biden will travel to Europe next week for face-to-face talks with European leaders about the Russian invasion of Ukraine, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced on Tuesday.
Biden will meet with European leaders at an extraordinary NATO summit in Brussels on March 24. He will also attend a scheduled European Council summit, where efforts to impose sanctions and further humanitarian efforts are underway.
“While he’s there, his goal is to meet in person face-to-face with his European counterparts and talk about, assess where we are at this point in the conflict in the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. We’ve been incredibly aligned to date," Psaki said. “That doesn’t happen by accident. The president is a big believer in face-to-face diplomacy. So it’s an opportunity to do exactly that.”
The White House announced the president's travel shortly before Biden on Tuesday signed a bill providing $13.6 billion (€12.4 billion) in additional military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine as part of a $1.5 trillion (€1.3 trillion) government spending measure.
Biden said at the bill signing ceremony that the US was “moving urgently to further augment the support to the brave people of Ukraine, as they defend their country."
The trip follows Vice President Kamala Harris' visit to eastern flank NATO countries of Poland and Romania last week to discuss with leaders the growing refugee crisis in eastern Europe sparked by the Russian invasion and to underscore the Biden administration's support for NATO allies.
Poland’s foreign minister Zbigniew Rau said Tuesday that a visit by Biden to Poland was "very probable” when he comes to Europe. More than 1.8 million Ukrainians have fled to Poland since the start of the war, according to the United Nations. More than 3 million people have fled Ukraine since Russian launched its invasion.
"It would be hard to imagine a better place for the United States and for the entire alliance to stress their position than the brightest link on the eastern flank, that Poland is,” Rau told Polish state TVP INFO.
Psaki said she did not have additional details about whether Biden would visit Poland during the trip.
The White House's announcement of Biden's visit to Brussels came on the same day that leaders of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia set out for Kyiv by train despite the security risks to show their support for Ukraine. It was a visit EU officials said was not sanctioned by other members of the 27-nation bloc.
Daniel Hamilton, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for European affairs, said Biden's trip to Europe comes as the White House looks to continue to maintain what's been a largely unified western opposition to Russia since the invasion.
“As the war continues, it’s important that the president show he is not sitting comfortably across the Atlantic, but that he is part of the coalition meeting with European colleagues in Europe and that the United States is a European power,” said Hamilton, non-resident fellow at Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.