WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden will attend an extraordinary NATO summit in Brussels next week in a show of solidarity against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, making his first trip to Europe since the war began three weeks ago.
Russian President Vladimir Putin continues a brutal assault on Ukraine, and leaders of Poland, Czech Republic and Slovenia traveled Tuesday to Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, on a European Union mission to show support for the embattled nation.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden will go to NATO headquarters March 24 to discuss “ongoing deterrence and defense efforts in response to Russia's unprovoked and unjustified attack on Ukraine and reaffirm our ironclad commitment to our NATO allies.”
Live updates: Zelenskyy says Ukraine may never join NATO
She said Biden will also join a scheduled European Council summit to discuss trans-Atlantic efforts to impose economic costs on Russia and provide humanitarian support to those affected by the violence in Ukraine.
Other details of Biden's trip were unclear. Psaki would not say whether Biden will visit Poland, where the majority of Ukrainian refugees have fled.
“We’re still working through the final details of the trip and what it may look like,” said Psaki, who did not rule out the possibility of Biden meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. “Nothing on the table at this point in time, but the real focus right now is to meet with NATO partners in Brussels."
Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Poland and Romania last week, where she held bilateral meetings with leaders from both countries and reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to defend members of NATO. The vice president went to NATO's eastern flank in a show of unity among members of the alliance. In February, Harris attended the Munich Security Conference.
Zelenskyy is set to virtually address the U.S. House and Senate on Wednesday morning after speaking to Canada's parliament on Tuesday.
Addressing representatives of the U.K.-led Joint Expeditionary Force, Zelenskyy said Ukraine has heard for years about "the allegedly open doors” of NATO, but he acknowledged his country will not be able to join. Putin has called for a guarantee that Ukraine would never join NATO among terms for an end to the war.
Zelenskyy has repeatedly called for NATO to set up a "no-fly" zone above Ukraine to stop the Russian aerial assault that has decimated cities since the invasion began Feb. 24. He said Tuesday that Europe could “help yourself by helping us” with more military aid.
The White House opposes a no-fly zone over Ukraine, a position Psaki reiterated Tuesday, saying the president believes that would be "escalatory" and "could prompt a war with Russia."
Since taking office, Biden has committed $1.2 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, according to the White House, including $550 million over the past two weeks. Biden signed a $1.5 trillion omnibus bill Tuesday that includes $13.6 billion in emergency military and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
“Putin’s aggression against Ukraine has united people all across America, united our two parties in Congress and united the freedom-loving world,” Biden said before signing the funding bill. “It’s an act with urgency and resolve that we're doing right now.”
Reach Joey Garrison on Twitter @joeygarrison.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden to travel to NATO HQ in show of solidarity with Ukraine