Home » Politics » Biden Invites Allies to Washington as Fighting Intensifies in Ukraine
Biden Invites Allies to Washington as Fighting Intensifies in Ukraine
June 5, 2023
President Biden hosted Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen of Denmark at the White House on Monday to discuss security initiatives, including providing military support to Ukraine, amid reports that Kyiv may be stepping up its long-planned counteroffensive against Russian forces.
One of the main discussion topics between Mr. Biden and Ms. Frederiksen, according to the White House, involved Ukraine’s demand for American-made F-16 warplanes. In late May, and after months of resisting mounting pressure to provide the planes out of fear they could be used to hit Russian territory, Mr. Biden agreed to allow for pilots to be trained to operate the aircraft and for allied countries to supply them.
Denmark is one of several countries whose leaders have signaled that they would be open to either transfer F-16s from their own stockpiles or provide pilot training. Belgium, the Netherlands and Norway have also indicated that they would be willing to help.
On Thursday, Mr. Biden will host Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain, another key NATO ally who has been vocal about the need to arm Kyiv. In February, Mr. Sunak said that “nothing was off the table” when it came to considering military aid for Ukraine.
Why It Matters: Fighting has intensified as Ukraine heads to Russia’s front lines.
For the past 16 months, Mr. Biden has helped keep key Western allies of the United States in agreement over the need to provide aid to Kyiv, despite softening domestic support for the war and amid conflicting opinions among other leaders about how best to arm Ukraine.
Now, as Ukrainian soldiers step up their artillery strikes and ground assaults against Russia’s front lines, the West again finds itself at a pivotal point in which allies will need to move forward in lock step.
John F. Kirby, a White House spokesman, told reporters on Monday that he could not say whether the Ukrainian counteroffensive had officially started, but he added that the Biden administration had done all it could to provide support to get Kyiv ready.
“The president is confident that we did everything we could over the past six, eight months or more to make sure that they had all the equipment, training or capabilities,” Mr. Kirby said.
On Monday, the timeline for delivery of F-16s still remained unclear. Mr. Biden has called it “highly unlikely” that the F-16s would be part of the counteroffensive that Ukraine planned over the past several months.
Background: Partisan differences have emerged over Ukraine.
Mr. Biden has publicly promised to back Ukraine for as long as it takes. When a reporter asked him on Monday if the Ukrainian counteroffensive would work, he did not answer, but crossed his fingers. Last week, the Defense Department authorized another package of military assistance, which included munitions for Patriot air defense systems, Stinger antiaircraft systems, and over 30 million rounds of small-arms ammunition.
The war in Ukraine has become a political cudgel for several Republican presidential candidates. Former President Donald J. Trump has suggested that he could quickly broker an agreement between Kyiv and Moscow. Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida was criticized for likening the invasion to a “territorial dispute.” In a CNN town hall on Sunday, Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, said that it was in the “best interest of our national security for Ukraine to win.”
What’s Next: Biden is set to continue corralling support.
Mr. Biden will host Mr. Sunak on Thursday for an official working visit, and the two leaders will participate in a news conference at the White House. In July, Mr. Biden is expected to travel to Lithuania for the NATO summit, where discussions about arming and providing other assistance to Kyiv will be a central focus.
Another wrinkle will accompany the visits from Mr. Sunak and Ms. Frederiksen: With NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, expected to leave his post in September, both leaders are at least tangentially involved in the succession conversations. Mr. Sunak has pushed for Ben Wallace, his defense secretary, to replace Mr. Stoltenberg, and Ms. Frederiksen is thought to be a candidate for the job.
At the White House, Ms. Frederiksen said she did not want to speculate.
Katie Rogers is a White House correspondent, covering life in the Biden administration, Washington culture and domestic policy. She joined The Times in 2014. @katierogers