Biden lands in Lithuania for the high-stakes NATO summit

Joe Biden landed in the Baltic nation of Lithuania on Monday ahead of a key NATO summit as both Ukraine and Sweden eye membership of the 31-member military alliance.

The 80-year-old touched down in the capital, Vilnius, after a fence-mending whistle-stop trip to the United Kingdom where he has faced accusations of being anti-British.

Biden was overheard on arrival claiming that his meeting in London with King Charles ‘went well’ where the two men discussed climate change and China. 

Biden arrived from Britain where he had held talks with King Charles 

Biden arrived in Lithuania from the United Kingdom earlier on Monday amid an ongoing row over the U.S. move to send cluster bombs

Biden arrived in Lithuania from the United Kingdom earlier on Monday amid an ongoing row over the U.S. move to send cluster bombs 

The commander-in-chief joked with locals after touching down in Vilnius after a short trip to London

The commander-in-chief joked with locals after touching down in Vilnius after a short trip to London

After being greeted by his Lithuanian counterpart Gitanas Nausėda on the tarmac in Vilnius, Biden will wade straight into another row.

There has been been uproar over Washington’s decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine despite more than 100 nations worldwide banning the highly lethal weapons. 

Britain, Canada, Spain and New Zealand have expressed concern about shipping the controversial arms to Kyiv’s armed forces, and even top Democrats have hit out at the White House’s decision.

But the commander-in-chief was defiant in an interview with CNN, hitting back at his critics of the move.

He said that cluster bombs would help Ukraine expel Russian invaders from its territory and would make up for a shortage of traditional ammunition.

However, the president appeared to accidentally let slip that the U.S. too was running low on shells. 

 ‘This is a war relating to munitions. And they’re running out of that ammunition, and we’re low on it,’ Biden said. 

‘And so, what I finally did, I took the recommendation of the Defense Department to – not permanently – but to allow for this transition period while we get more 155 weapons, these shells, for the Ukrainians.’

Biden will also hope that Turkey will eventually relent and sign off on Sweden joining the mutual defense club amid a row over the deportation of alleged Kurdish militants.

But Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in an unexpected move, demanded that the EU should open the way for Ankara’s accession to the bloc before Turkey’s parliament approves Sweden’s bid to join NATO.

But State Department spokesman Matthew Miller hit back, saying they are ‘separate issues’ for the Biden administration. has approached the European Commission, the EU executive that handles membership talks, for comment.  

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is also pushing for guarantees that Kyiv will also be granted membership, something that Biden has ruled out – for now – because it was ‘in the middle of a war.’

But the country’s chances of becoming a member of the world’s most important military alliance received a boost earlier. 

NATO officials have already agreed on a fast-track application process, announced by Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba earlier on Monday.

It means Ukraine will no longer be required to take part in the club’s Membership Action Plan, a process of key reforms demanded of any potential member.  

‘Following intensive talks, Nato allies have reached consensus on removing MAP from Ukraine’s path to membership. I welcome this long-awaited decision that shortens our path to Nato. It is also the best moment to offer clarity on the invitation to Ukraine to become a member,’ Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

It marks a diplomatic breakthrough for Ukraine ahead of Zelensky’s attendance at the summit in Lithuania. 

He told ABC News in an interview that he wants ‘effective security guarantees’ while it is waiting for full membership.

A senior NATO official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that ‘the time is not right for an invitation to Ukraine’ owing to Vladimir Putin’s illegal invasion of the country.

But the source said the leaders would sketch out ‘concrete steps towards membership.’

A paper by ex-NATO chief Ander Fogh Rasmussen and his chief of staff Andriy Yermak last year suggested a Kyiv Security Compact, effectively shadow NATO membership, to protect the country and its people from future Russian aggression.

It said that it should include US, Great Britain, Canada, Poland, Italy, Germany, France, Australia, and Turkey, as well as Baltic, Central and Eastern Europe.

Ukraine was first considered for NATO membership in 2008, but was never offered a formal process to join amid fears that Russia would be provoked by such a move.

Under Article 5 of the alliance’s mutual defense treaty, an attack on one NATO ally is considered as an attack on all.

But it is not automatic and the clause requires the approval of all NATO countries to be triggered.

That has happened only once since NATO was founded in 1949; in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks and George W. Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan. understands that British prime minister Rishi Sunak will use the meeting in Vilnius to tell all NATO allies to reach the agreed 2 percent spend of GDP on defense. 

Only 11 countries hit that target: the United States, Britain, Poland, Greece, Estonia, Lithuania, Finland Romania, Hungary, Latvia and Slovakia.

But Poland recently announced it would ramp up defense spending to as much as 4 percent by the end of this year in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine,