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US reports positive UK, China visits – but Biden-Zelensky meeting and thorny Nato question loom

US reports positive UK, China visits – but Biden-Zelensky meeting and thorny Nato question loom
Lithuania's President Gitanas Nauseda (C-R) and US President Joe Biden (C-L) arrive to attend a bilateral meeting at the Presidential Palace ahead of the NATO ?summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, 11 July 2023. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Summit will take place in Vilnius on 11 and 12 July 2023 with the alliance's leaders expected to adopt new defense plans. EPA-EFE/TIM IRELAND

US President Joe Biden is in Europe for the Nato summit where he is expected to meet with Ukraine’s president, but does not support that country joining Nato right now. While US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen believes her trip to China has gone some way towards stabilising the relationship between the two countries, it is clear that while the nations are still tense, they are also still talking.

As Daily Maverick’s own J Brooks Spector wrote: “It’s a politically sizzling summer for the US on domestic and foreign policy.” 

American foreign and domestic policy is in the spotlight, especially considering US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s visit to China, and that US President Joe Biden is in Vilnius, Lithuania, for the 2023 Nato summit. 

Biden first visited the UK, landing late on Sunday and meeting the UK prime minister and King Charles on Monday, before heading off to Lithuania on Monday evening. Just hours after he arrived in Lithuania it was announced that Turkey had agreed to support Sweden’s bid to join Nato, after blocking the country for months, for “hosting Kurdish militants”.

US Biden Nato

Lithuania’s President Gitanas Nauseda with US President Joe Biden before a bilateral meeting at the Presidential Palace ahead of the Nato summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on 11 July 2023. (Photo: EPA-EFE / Tim Ireland)

A delighted Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristerson called it “a good day for Sweden”.

Reuters reported that Biden had, earlier on Monday, met first with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and later with King Charles. Biden’s meeting with Sunak lasted less than an hour, with the US president saying: “Our relationship is rock-solid. Couldn’t be meeting with a closer friend and a greater ally.”

While Biden and Sunak discussed the Nato summit and Ukraine’s attempt to join the alliance, he and King Charles met “banking bosses, financiers and philanthropists”, to talk about climate change and how to bolster private funding in the fight against it.

While Biden is expected to meet Ukraine’s Prime Minister Vlodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday, he made it clear last week that Nato is not unanimous on allowing Ukraine to become a Nato member “in the middle of a war”, and: “I think we have to lay out a rational path for Ukraine to be able to qualify to get into Nato.”

The alliance’s mutual defence pact means members have to assist a member who comes under attack. 

While the Ukrainian president had himself said at the beginning of June that it would not be possible for Ukraine to join Nato while the war was ongoing, he is still set to press for his country to join the alliance. Zelensky says of Nato support for Ukraine: 

It would be an important message to say that Nato is not afraid of Russia. Ukraine should get clear security guarantees while it is not in Nato.”

‘Productive’ in Beijing

And in the US, despite strong criticism from some quarters, Yellen says that her trip to China was productive, and even took to Twitter to drive this sentiment home.

Speaking to the media on her return home at the weekend, Yellen said she and Biden believed “that the world is big enough for both of our countries to thrive”.

In what amounted to about 10 hours of meetings, it does appear that at the very least both parties want to continue talking. Yellen met the People’s Republic of China Vice-Premier He Lifeng, and it was a “candid, constructive and comprehensive” meeting, according to the US Treasury Department. It included a discussion about American businesses and workers and an exchange of views “on global and domestic macroeconomic outlooks”.  

A statement by China’s finance ministry on Monday, CNBC reported (their translation from Chinese to English), said: “Differences should not be a reason for estrangement, but rather a driver for strengthening communication and exchanges.” 

Following Yellen’s time in Beijing, China has also asked the US for “practical action” around sanctions against Chinese companies, and that America “cease the suppression of Chinese enterprises… and take concrete steps to respond to China’s major concerns on economic relations between the two countries”. DM

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