Biden’s triumphs over Putin at NATO summit clouded by drama over Roe and Trump

(Bloomberg) – President Joe Biden walked out of summits in Europe this week triumphing over NATO expansion and is taking steps to further isolate and punish Russian President Vladimir Putin over the invasion of Ukraine .

But he returns to the domestic political tumult that has allies at home and abroad concerned about his prospects at the helm of the world’s most powerful democracy.

Biden’s attendance at meetings with the Group of Seven in Germany and NATO allies in Madrid was overshadowed in US media by fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision last week to end the right to nationwide abortion, as well as an explosive congressional hearing that detailed former President Donald Trump. efforts to prevent his successor from taking office.

Liberal Democrats are in an uproar over the court’s decision to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision and increasingly agitated that the White House has not responded with more force, adding to whispers within the Party Democrat that Biden should consider stepping down in 2024.

With no end in sight to soaring prices for gas, food and other everyday items, Biden’s public approval rating continues to drop below 40%, according to a poll analysis by FiveThirtyEight, compounding his party’s midterm election troubles.

In apparent acknowledgment of his domestic challenges, Biden joked on Wednesday, as he met Spain’s King Felipe VI in an ornate room in his palace, that “we may not be going back” to the United States.

And yet, he left Europe with indisputable victories. A deal to admit Sweden and Finland to NATO was reached after Biden made a last-minute phone call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson both welcomed the expansion. “It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was the right decision to make,” Andersson said on Wednesday.

Biden negotiators also won new G-7 sanctions on Russian gold trading and persuaded the group to pursue a cap on Russian oil prices.

“Before the war started, I told Putin that if he invaded Ukraine, not only would NATO become stronger, but it would become more united and we would see — we would see democracies and the world stand up and oppose his aggression and defend the rules-based order,” Biden said Thursday at a press conference in Madrid. “That’s exactly what we’re seeing today.”

But Biden and his aides have spent the week denying that the summits were overshadowed by furor over the Roe decision or congressional hearings on the Jan. 6 insurgency, which this week introduced a surprise witness who delivered new revelations about Trump’s efforts to participate personally. .

The president told reporters that none of the leaders at the G-7 meeting in Germany discussed the Roe decision.

His own profile in Germany, however, was decidedly low. His public schedule during the trip was lighter than at previous summits and included only a handful of formal one-on-one meetings with other leaders. He skipped a dinner hosted by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on the second night of the G-7, and also walked out of the summit ahead of a discussion of the upcoming G-20 meeting in Indonesia – a very concerning gathering for the US after the hosts extended an invitation to Putin.

European counterparts interpreted Biden’s absence from the G-20 discussion as a sign that the president might choose to skip the Bali summit rather than Russia’s participation, according to a European diplomat.

During the few unscripted moments with other heads of state that reporters were allowed to observe, Biden seemed determined to lighten the mood, markedly more austere than in previous years given the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

Senior White House officials said the president held a full schedule of meetings behind the scenes at the G-7, including multiple meetings with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, including colorful asides within earshot of reporters were used to host the event.

The president played a key role behind the scenes in sealing the deal with Turkey to advance Sweden’s and Finland’s NATO bids. Nordic leaders wanted a gut check from Biden on Wednesday to make sure he approved of the deal they struck with Erdogan. Coming out of his meeting with King Felipe, Biden was briefed on the terms and then signed, according to senior administration officials.

And Biden aides pointed to NATO’s decision to put 300,000 troops in Europe on high alert, a prime example of allies hitting U.S. goals to boost military readiness and deter Russia.

His team was also tasked with pushing other G-7 countries to agree to the language of a joint statement on Russian oil price caps and speaking out against China’s aggressive economic behavior – two unprecedented displays of unity. between allies, according to the White House.

American allies have publicly echoed Biden’s sentiment on the meetings’ impact.

“We are living in a decisive moment for European security and the international order,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told public television TVE. “What Putin is doing in Ukraine marks a tectonic shift in international relations. We have a lot at stake in how we respond and that’s why this summit was so important.

But Biden is returning to a Washington engrossed in internal challenges and controversies, with economic concerns dominating voters’ attention ahead of November’s midterm elections that the president’s party still looks set to lose.

There is also growing interest in the president’s political future. During her absence, Vice President Kamala Harris had to clarify comments she made about her re-election intentions, once again fueling speculation that she intends to seek a second term.

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