President Joe Biden will travel to Brussels next week to meet with NATO leaders in his first European visit since Russian President Vladimir Putin started invading Ukraine, the White House announced Tuesday.
At the show of unity on March 24, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden will "reaffirm our ironclad commitment to our NATO allies."
His trip follows the prime ministers of Poland, Slovenia and the Czech Republic heading to Kyiv on Tuesday, as shelling continues there, in a show of support to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy despite the danger on the ground.
Just before the White House announcement, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted, "I have convened an extraordinary Summit on 24 March at #NATO HQ. We will address #Russia's invasion of #Ukraine, our strong support for Ukraine, and further strengthening NATO's deterrence & defence. At this critical time, North America & Europe must continue to stand together."
Biden will also join a scheduled European Council summit "to discuss our shared concerns about Ukraine, including transatlantic efforts to impose economic costs on Russia, provide humanitarian support to those affected by the violence and address other challenges related to the conflict," Psaki said.
The goal of Biden's trip to Brussels will be to meet "face-to-face" with his European counterparts to assess Russia's invasion of Ukraine, she said.
"We've been incredibly aligned to date. That doesn't happen by accident," Psaki added. "The president's a big believer in face-to-face diplomacy. So, it's an opportunity to do exactly that."
She said that the NATO meeting is the "real focus right now," and wouldn't say if Biden will be making additional stops in Poland or to meet with refugees. Nearly three million people have fled Ukraine since the invasion began, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Russia fired a barrage of missiles into Western Ukraine over the weekend, hitting a large military base near the Polish border and raising concerns an attack could hit neighboring NATO ally Poland, potentially triggering an Article 5 response.
Zelenskyy is scheduled to deliver a rare and historic, virtual address on Wednesday to members of Congress, which Biden will be watching, Psaki said. In an address to Canada’s Parliament Tuesday, Zelenskyy wasn’t shy to call out Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by name in an emotional appeal for more help to Ukraine.
While the U.S. has imposed a slate of economic and trade sanctions to isolate Putin, it's unclear what still remains available at the Biden administration's disposal since it has said there would be no no-fly zone, no U.S. troops in Ukraine and no help in delivering planes that NATO ally Poland wants to get to Ukrainians.
NATO has not agreed to Zelenskyy's central plea to enforce a no-fly zone over Ukraine, with Psaki saying Tuesday the measure "essentially means us shooting down Russian planes, and them essentially shooting back at us."
Next week will mark Biden's third foreign trip and second to NATO headquarters in Brussels. It comes on the heels of Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken making stops in Europe this month.