President heads to NATO talks in Vilnius
President heads to NATO talks in Vilnius

Belarus getting closer to Russia, Lithuanian president tells Biden

Biden and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda discussed Belarus, Russia’s closest European ally, during their meeting on the first day of the summit in Vilnius.

Nausėda said Belarus, with which Lithuania shares a border, is getting even closer to Moscow, after President Alexander Lukashenko allowed his country’s territory to be used in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Earlier this year, Putin also said he would deploy Russian tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus.

Nausėda said Belarus was becoming an “additional factor of insecurity in the region,” where he said the security situation is “unfortunately deteriorating.”

Photo: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak heads to NATO summit

The British leader boards a plane in London as he heads to Vilnius, Lithuania, where he is to attend a NATO Summit on Tuesday. 

Rishi Sunak Vilnus NATO Summit Lithuania
Paul Ellis / AP

Stoltenberg says NATO expansion sends ‘clear message’ to Putin

VILNIUS — NATO’s expansion “sends a very clear message” to Russian President Vladimir Putin that Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine was a “big” mistake, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in opening comments at today’s summit.

Leaders of the countries that make up the North Atlantic Treaty Organization have pressed for Ukraine’s path to future member membership in the alliance, even as Russia hoped to foreclose the prospect.

“This sends a very clear message to Russia, to President Putin, that NATO’s door remains open,” Stoltenberg said on Tuesday. “He went to war because he wanted less NATO. He’s getting more NATO.” 

Ukraine is seeking security guarantees and assurances of a pathway into the alliance, which has grown to include Finland since the outbreak of the war. A sudden reversal by Turkey on the eve of the summit cleared the path for Sweden’s entry. The progress “also demonstrates that President Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine was a big strategic mistake,” Stoltenberg said.

Drone attacks in Ukraine ahead of the summit

Russia continued to attack Ukrainian cities with drones on the eve of the NATO summit, Ukrainian officials said.

Drones caused structural damage in an unnamed settlement in the central Kyiv region, but no casualties were reported by Ukraine’s interior ministry.

Officials in the southern port city of Odesa also confirmed several waves of drone attacks overnight. The city’s regional wartime administration said 22 drones were destroyed, but two hit an administrative building of the port facility. Two port terminals, including one holding grain, caught fire due to falling debris, it added, but no critical damage or injuries were reported.

Moscow denies striking civilian targets in Ukraine, but it has sent volleys of drones and missiles at residential areas and civilian infrastructure throughout the war.

Photo: Biden signs guestbook at Presidential Palace in Vilnius

Biden signs the guest book during a bilateral meeting with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda on the sidelines of the NATO Summit at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius on Tuesday.

Biden signs guestbook at Lithuanian presidential palace
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP – Getty Images

Zelenskyy says ‘Ukraine will be in NATO’ in address ahead of summit

It is clear that Ukraine deserves to be in NATO and the country needs a signal that it will eventually become part of the alliance, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his daily address on Monday night.

While Kyiv realizes that it won’t be able to join while the war is going on, NATO’s eastern flank depends on Ukraine so there is an understanding that the country will eventually become part of NATO.

“We are working to make the algorithm for gaining membership as clear and fast as possible,” he added.

Photo: Biden greeted at Lithuanian Presidential Palace

President Biden and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda during an official welcome ceremony at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius on Tuesday.

Biden in Lithuania
Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP – Getty Images

‘Important day for Ukraine’: Zelenskyy’s chief of staff

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, is preparing for what he said will be an “important day for Ukraine” as NATO leaders assemble in Vilnius for the first day of the summit.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his chief of staff Andriy Yermak on Saturday. AFP – Getty Images

“Today, we are working with our allies on security architecture issues,” Yermak said in a post on Telegram, as Kyiv is waiting to see what the alliance will muster up in terms of a clear pathway to membership for Ukraine.

Biden says he’s ‘not at all’ surprised by Turkey’s reversal on Sweden

VILNIUS—President Biden said he was “not at all” surprised by Turkey’s decision on Monday to clear the path for Sweden’s entry into the NATO alliance, a sudden shift as leaders gathered for the start of the summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. 

“I’ll talk about it later,” Biden promised as he sat down to meet with the Lithuanian president.

Image: NATO Holds 2023 Summit In Vilnius
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Vilnius, Lithuania on Monday.Getty Images

Asked what made Turkey agree to a deal, Biden smiled and said, “What do you think?” but did not elaborate.

President Erdogan of Turkey had earlier linked Sweden’s NATO bid to Turkey joining the European Union, setting up an apparent obstacle before it quickly dissolved.

NATO will send Ukraine a ‘positive signal’ over NATO pathway, White House says

VILNIUS — The White House said President Biden and trans-Atlantic leaders would send “a united, positive signal” to Ukraine over its path to future NATO membership this week, but doused hopes that Kyiv could be fast-tracked into the defensive alliance.

“Bringing Ukraine into the alliance now in Vilnius would bring NATO into war with Russia. Also, Ukraine has further steps to take along its reform path, but allies will send a united, positive signal on Ukraine’s path to future membership in the alliance,” Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security advisor, told reporters, adding that leaders were unlikely to reach an agreement on a timeline for the process.

“There’s consensus, including from Ukraine, that the question is not Ukraine in NATO now, here in Vilnius. The question is, what’s the pathway towards Ukraine’s future membership,” he said. “I think we can come to a good understanding about that, here in Vilnius, among all of the allies, and with Ukraine.”

Ukraine’s push for security guarantees has been a source of tension leading up to the talks, with Biden warning over the weekend that its assent would pit NATO’s members, including the United States, against Russia in the ongoing conflict. 

Biden welcomes Turkey’s decision to back Sweden’s NATO bid

Biden welcomed Turkey’s decision to back Sweden’s NATO bid after a year of opposition to the Scandinavian country’s application.

“I welcome the statement issued by Türkiye, Sweden and the NATO Secretary General this evening,” Biden said in a statement. “I stand ready to work with President Erdogan and Türkiye on enhancing defense and deterrence in the Euro-Atlantic area.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that Turkey agreed to support Sweden’s bid to join the NATO military alliance after holding talks between Erdoğan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson the evening before the NATO summit was scheduled to begin.

Turkey agrees to back Sweden’s NATO bid

Turkey agreed to support Sweden’s bid to join the NATO military alliance after a year of opposition, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday, calling the moment a “historic step.”

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan agreed to send the accession protocol to the Turkish parliament for approval as soon as possible, Stoltenberg said, noting that Erdoğan would “ensure ratification.”

“Sweden will become a full member of the alliance,” Stoltenberg said.

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NATO leaders gather in Lithuania’s capital

President Joe Biden and other NATO leaders will gather in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius, this morning for a key summit that could alter the course of the war in Ukraine, as well as the future of the alliance itself.

NATO leaders will be joining the summit with a renewed collaborative spirit after Turkey dropped its longheld objections to Sweden joining the alliance.

The war in Ukraine will be at the top of the agenda for the summit, with alliance leaders expected to revise plans for dealing with Russian aggression.

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