The devil is in the details. And the most inconvenient details, as often happens, have no place in official communiqués. But Joe Biden’s landing in Europe for the NATO summit that opens on July 11th in Vilnius this time has the air of being anything but triumphant.
The NATO allies to meet in Vilnius: divergences on cluster bombs
Certainly, the allies of the Euro-Atlantic axis gathered in the Lithuanian capital will solemnly reaffirm their unity in supporting Ukraine against Russian aggression. What’s more, they will in all likelihood plan for Kiev a credible path of strong and clear ‘security guarantees’, pending its promised membership in the Alliance.
But behind the display of unity there are cracks in the modalities of that military support. Today, not years from now. The issue that has split the Allies in recent days, though sheltered from the public limelight for obvious reasons, is that of the US choice to supply Kiev with the infamous cluster bombs.
A highly lethal weapon, during and after conflicts, and for this reason banned under the terms of an international convention by over 100 countries. Including almost all EU countries, but not the USA.
Nor Russia or Ukraine itself, both of which, according to the Cluster Munition Coalition, have already used this weapon in their war that has been going on for over 500 days.
Sunak to Biden: “On cluster bombs to Ukraine you are wrong”
On the eve of the opening of the Vilnius summit, it was the British Prime Minister Sunak who, face to face with Biden, expressed all his misgivings about the US choice.
Receiving the US leader in Downing Street, Rishi Sunak could not refrain from expressing the reluctance of the United Kingdom – and of half of Europe – to support such a choice, defined in the past as ‘difficult’ but endorsed by Biden himself.
As Sunak has already said over the weekend, the spokesman said, recalling the British leader’s tough public stance, ‘the UK is a state party to the Convention on Cluster Bombs‘.
With Biden, Sunak therefore ‘discussed the commitment the UK has under that convention, both not to produce cluster munitions and to discourage their use’.
The tea with Sunak and the visit to King Charles
A very clear position, therefore, that of the British government. And expressed without hesitation to the great American ally, in the framework of a meeting that for the rest – at least according to the photos circulated and the official note – confirmed the usual unity of intent between the US and the UK.
The two countries are and remain “side by side in their commitment to strengthening the NATO alliance” and in maintaining support for Ukraine, reads the two leaders’ joint statement after the meeting.
According to the official Downing Street account, over a cup of tea in the London residence, Biden and Sunak discussed in detail Kiev’s ‘progress in the counter-offensive’ (below expectations, so far) and reiterated the need for a ‘long-term commitment to the defence’ of Ukraine ‘until victory’. The only condition for a ‘just and lasting’ peace.
The two leaders also addressed other hot issues on the geopolitical and geo-economic terrain. From Sweden’s path to NATO membership, to the urgency of which they both referred, to the security of supplies of critical raw materials, to the management of artificial intelligence.
After his meeting with Sunak, Biden then paid a visit to King Charles III in Windsor, with whom the conciliators would focus in particular on the issues of climate change and energy transition, which are particularly dear to the new sovereign of the Kingdom.
The US president then took off for Vilnius, where the Alliance summit opens on July 11th. Where Biden may have to answer questions from other European leaders similar to those put to him by Sunak today.