President Biden is heading to Europe, leaving a nation in turmoil over abortion rights to take on dueling missions abroad: find ways to lower food and gas prices while keeping allies unified in their pressure campaign against Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Biden’s meetings over the next week with the Group of Seven (G-7) nations and NATO allies will be largely focused on addressing Moscow’s continued bloody assault on Ukraine and the global economic shocks stemming from the invasion, though issues at home threaten to overshadow his time overseas.

It’s hardly the first high-stakes overseas trip Biden has embarked on since taking office last year, but comes at a time of stark domestic unrest. The Supreme Court ruling striking down the constitutional right to an abortion will demand much of the White House’s attention, even as Biden seeks to project U.S. strength and leadership on the world stage.

While the president has succeeded thus far in uniting allies around a common approach to punishing Russia and aiding Ukraine, the trip will present a pressing test of his ability to keep countries unified as the war stretches into its fifth month with no sign of a resolution.  

“It will be, I think, very important for the president to drive that message of we’ve got to stay together on this and we’ve got to continue to support Ukraine in every way we can,” said Rose Gottemoeller, a former deputy secretary general of NATO. “Even with these economic crises gathering force right now.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to deliver remarks virtually at both the G-7 and NATO summits. Ukraine has been pressing for more heavy weaponry to fight back against the Russians amid the bombardment in the Donbas. 

Biden on Thursday released the third tranche of assistance for Ukraine just this month, a $450 million package that includes four more advanced rocket systems as well as patrol boats and ammunition. U.S. officials have said they are committed to providing Kyiv the military and economic tools it needs to push back and strengthen its position if a negotiating table with Moscow becomes an option.

Both summits will require member states to confront sped-up challenges of food security, climate change, battling disinformation and strengthening democracies. The war has contributed to upward pressures on both energy and food prices, exacerbating global inflation amid the ongoing pandemic. 

“I’m doing everything I can to blunt the Putin price hike and bring down the cost of gas and food,” Biden tweeted on Wednesday. “I led the world to coordinate the largest release from global oil reserves in history, and I’m working to get 20 million tons of grain out of Ukraine to help bring down prices.”

The White House has been intently focused on bringing down gas prices at home and finding ways to reduce European dependence on Russian energy. Just this past week, Biden called on Congress to pass a federal gas tax holiday to lift the burden on American consumers.

“There is a lot to talk about,” said Daniel Fried, former U.S. ambassador to Poland and an expert at the Atlantic Council.

Biden is scheduled to head first to the Bavarian Alps in Germany to attend the meeting of G-7, which includes the U.S., Canada, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and Germany.

Speaking on a phone call with reporters ahead of the trip, a senior Biden administration official said that the president would participate in seven working sessions focusing on issues including climate change, infrastructure, energy security, the global economy and Ukraine.

The official said the leaders plan to roll out “concrete” proposals to put pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war and show support for Ukraine, but it’s unclear what shape those will take.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and its allies are weighing a price cap on Russian oil imports that proponents say could help reduce Russian profits while allowing oil to flow to countries that are dependent on it.

China imports of crude oil from Russia soared by 55 percent in May compared to the same time last year, Reuters reported, and India has imported 34 million barrels of discounted Russian oil since Moscow launched its Ukraine invasion on Feb. 24.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the G-7 meeting, after participating in virtual meetings hosted by Beijing for the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit.

The G-7 meeting will take place as the United Nations is quietly trying to negotiate with Russia, Ukraine and Turkey on a way to allow shipments of Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports that have been under Russian blockade for weeks.

Amanda Sloat, senior director for Europe on the National Security Council, said that Ankara was part of “food security conversations,” during a conference hosted by the Atlantic Council on Wednesday.

“Certainly there’s challenges that we’ve been public about, but I think Turkey has also tried to play a constructive role on Ukraine,” she said.

Biden will leave Germany for Madrid early next week to attend his fourth NATO summit as president, where the debate around Sweden and Finland joining the alliance is likely to take center stage.

The U.S. and other allies praise the two Nordic countries as model applicants to NATO while at the same time giving credence to Turkey’s concerns with their membership: that individuals associated with the Kurdistan Workers Party, designated a terrorist organization by Ankara, are not fully banned by Stockholm and Helsinki.

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said following his visit in Ankara this week that it’s not clear whether Turkey’s issues with Finland and Sweden can be resolved by the time of the Madrid summit.

“If Turkey is asking, for example, for extradition of Swedish citizens, that’s going to be a matter of Swedish law. And I’m not sure that that’s something that Sweden can agree to without their legal process being exercised,” King told reporters. 

Some experts believe that Biden may need to get more directly involved in persuading Turkey to drop its objections. Ultimately, the U.S. may need to make concessions to Turkey in the form of F-16 fighter jets in order to persuade Ankara to allow the Finnish and Swedish bids to move forward.

The White House has not specified whether Biden plans to meet one-on-one with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

“Where the president can be effective is really probably if at the summit meeting there is some last minute intercession, interaction with Erdoğan that is needed to bring a deal home, then he would participate in that phase,” Gottemoeller said. “He is saved for the big action.”

Senior officials including national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have engaged with Turkish counterparts over the past several weeks, and while they haven’t divulged specific plans for U.S. concessions, they have expressed confidence about the path forward.

John Kirby, who serves as National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, said Thursday that the discussion was largely trilateral — among Turkey, Sweden and Finland — but made clear the U.S. is willing to get involved as necessary.

“We’re confident that they’re going to be able to get there,” Kirby said, while declining to predict a timeline.

The NATO members are also expected to make new commitments to bolster force presence on its eastern flank to protect the Baltic states and Poland amid escalating Russian aggression in the region. And for the first time, the alliance will rally around a new strategic concept that mentions China, a nod to the growing threat posed by Beijing.

The NATO meeting will be an “extraordinary summit,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), co-chair of the Senate NATO-observer group, said this week, pointing to the expanding alliance and outreach to Asia-Pacific partners to counter China’s global ambitions.

“This is an extraordinary summit, let alone that we have two nonaligned nations wanting to join and adding 830 miles of a border with Russia, but we have Pacific Rim countries coming, because where there’s an increasing acknowledgement to NATO that China is a threat, and to have them at the summit is historic,” Tillis said in an interview with The Washington Post.

Tags Abortion abortion rights Abortion ruling Biden BRICS Food prices G-7 G-7 summit gas prices Germany Group of Seven Inflation Joe Biden Madrid NATO Rose Gottemoeller Russia Russo-Ukrainian War spain Supreme Court Ukraine Ukraine crisis Ukraine invasion Ukraine war

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