MADRID (AP) – President Joe Biden arrived in Spain on Tuesday to meet fellow NATO leaders with plans to bolster the US presence in Europe at a time of growing concern over the alliance’s steadfastness in the face of the ongoing war in Ukraine.
White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that in talks with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez later on Tuesday, Biden plans to increase the number of naval destroyers in Rota, Spain, from four to six. Sullivan said the move was one of many announcements Biden and NATO allies would make to strengthen the alliance in the region.
Sullivan said the Rota movement “will help increase the naval presence of the United States and NATO”. He said Biden would announce additional steps on Wednesday.
“The president said before the war started that if Putin invaded Ukraine, the United States and NATO would bolster forces on the eastern flank, not just for the duration of the crisis, but to address the long-term shift in strategic realities that that would present,” Sullivan added.
Biden wants to use this week’s NATO summit to support allies amid signs of rifts in the Western alliance. After piling up an avalanche of sanctions against the Russian economy and funneling billions of dollars in weapons to Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression, NATO partners are showing signs of tension as the cost of energy and other essential goods has skyrocketed.
As the US president left the German Alps for the NATO meeting, where he met leaders of the Group of Seven for the first time this week, French President Emmanuel Macron said prices are putting European economies in an “unsustainable” situation. . Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, addressing the G-7 on Monday, has expressed open concern that the West has grown weary at the cost of the war.
To be sure, the US has been building its presence since shortly before the Russian invasion in late February, with about 20,000 troops in addition to the 80,000 previously in Europe.
Sullivan suggested that other moves Biden will announce “will involve additional troops on the eastern flank” of NATO “in a steady state”. He declined to say whether some US troops serving on NATO’s eastern flank on a rotating basis would become permanent.
Biden is set to meet with Turkish President Erdogan on Wednesday as it remains the most vocal support for Finland and Sweden to join NATO. The two countries have taken the historic step of applying for NATO membership in the wake of the Russian invasion.
Sullivan said the US has no role to play in the negotiations between Turkey and the Scandinavian countries, which are being brokered by NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg.
Turkey wants the two countries to crack down on a Kurdish separatist group it accuses of terrorism. The three countries have negotiated extensively in Brussels, but analysts had expected the US might need to play a bigger role in getting Turkey on board.
Sullivan said the US would champion the entry of Finland and Sweden to the alliance at the summit, dodging the question of whether the US could urge Turkey to support the countries’ accession.
The president will also hold a rare joint meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to discuss North Korea’s nuclear program.
US and South Korean officials say North Korea has nearly completed preparations for its first nuclear test since September 2017, when it claimed to have detonated a thermonuclear warhead designed for intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Analysts say North Korea could use its next nuclear test to claim its ability to build small warheads that can be placed on short-range missiles or other new weapons systems it has been demonstrating in recent months.
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