Biden to shore up Nato allies following failed mutiny in Russia
US President Joe Biden will leave for Europe in a week to firm up ties with key Nato allies, including the UK, in the wake of last month’s abortive uprising in Russia.
Biden plans to hold talks with UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak before heading to Vilnius, Lithuania, for the 74th NATO summit, and ending in Finland with a gathering of Nordic leaders, the White House said in a statement.
The visit on 9 to 13 July comes against a backdrop of rising tensions in Russia after a short-lived rebellion led by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin shook President Vladimir Putin’s authority. Infighting is spreading within Moscow’s security establishment as the Russian president moves on senior players thought to have supported the mutiny.
Fighters from the Wagner mercenary group, meanwhile. may be about to regroup en masse in Belarus, where they’ve been promised a warm welcome by President Alexander Lukashenko, a Putin ally.
There are signs that Washington senses opportunity, even as it insists it’s taking a hands-off approach to Russia’s internal matters.
William Burns, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said on Saturday that disaffection with the war “will continue to gnaw away at the Russian leadership, beneath the steady diet of state propaganda and practised repression”. For US intelligence that’s created “a once-in-a-generation opportunity,” he said, adding that “we’re not letting it go to waste.”
In Vilnius, a focus will be on Ukraine and whether members of the military alliance set out a clear path for the war-torn nation to eventually join Nato, as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has urged.
Biden’s visit to Britain may offer a welcome distraction for Sunak, who can focus at least briefly on diplomacy after a string of bruising domestic setbacks.
The prime minister, who is also expected to attend the NATO summit, is feeling the heat after a month that laid bare the parlous state of the UK economy, beset by persistent inflation, rising rising interest rates that are burning mortgage-holders, and the threat of recession.
The past week brought further setbacks: the possible collapse of London’s water supplier and a court decision that found the government’s flagship policy to deport migrants to Rwanda was unlawful. DM