Joe Biden's mission in Europe: Shore up alliance against Russia

Washington: President Joe Biden is out to sustain the global alliance punishing Russia for its invasion of Ukraine as he embarks on a five-day trip to Europe as the four-month-old war shows no sign of abating and its aftershocks to global food and energy supplies are deepening.

Biden first joins a meeting of the Group of Seven leading economic powers in the Bavarian Alps of Germany and later travels to Madrid for a summit with leaders of the 30 NATO countries. The visit comes as the global coalition to bolster Ukraine and punish Russia for its aggression has showed signs of fraying amid skyrocketing inflation in food and energy prices caused by the conflict.

The Ukraine war has entered a more attritional phase since Biden's last trip to Europe in March, just weeks after Russia launched its assault. At that time, he met with allies in Brussels as Ukraine was under regular bombardment and he tried to reassure Eastern Europe partners in Poland that they would not be the next to face an incursion by Moscow.

Russian's subsequent retreat from western Ukraine and regrouping in the east has shifted the conflict to one of artillery battles and bloody house-to-house fighting in the country's industrial heartland, the Donbas region.

While U.S. officials see broad consensus for maintaining the pressure on Russia and sustaining support for Ukraine in the near term, they view Biden's trip as an opportunity to align strategy for both the conflict and its global ramifications heading into the winter and beyond.

Allies differ over whether their goals are merely to restore peace or to force Russia to pay a deeper price for the conflict to prevent its repetition.

Every country speaks for themselves, every country has concerns for what they're willing to do or not do," said John Kirby, spokesman for the White House National Security Council. But as far as the alliance goes, it truly has never been stronger and more viable than it is today.

Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is set to address both summits by video. The U.S. and allies have shipped his country billions of dollars in military assistance and imposed ever stricter sanctions on Russia over the invasion.

Kirby said the allies would be making new commitments during the summits to further sever Russia from the global economy. The aim is to make it more difficult for Moscow to acquire technology to rebuild the arsenal it has depleted in Ukraine and to crack down on sanctions evasion by Russia and its oligarchs.

G-7 summits have traditionally put global finance issues front and center, but amid soaring inflation in the U.S. and Europe, few concrete actions are expected.

There are different drivers of inflation in these various economies, different things that can be used to address it, said Josh Lipsky, director of the Atlantic Council's GeoEconomics Center. He foresees a lack of an ability to do something coordinated on inflation, other than really talk about the problem.

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