Biden’s Visit to the UK: Ukraine and Environment Take Center Stage

by Joshua Brown


A blend of grandeur and politics is on the agenda as President Joe Biden makes a stopover in the UK, where he will engage in discussions about the environment with King Charles III and the conflict in Ukraine with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Biden is en route to a NATO summit in Lithuania and will arrive in London on Sunday. On Monday, he is scheduled to hold talks with Sunak at 10 Downing Street before proceeding to Windsor Castle for his first meeting with Charles since the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in September.

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The unity of NATO will be tested amidst the challenges of Brexit and the resolve to counter Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.

Prior to attending the NATO meeting in Vilnius this week, both Sunak and the president will engage in talks focused on Ukraine. The discussions will explore the extent to which the military alliance should embrace Ukraine, a country that NATO leaders acknowledged as a future member in 2008 but without a clear roadmap, despite President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s passionate appeals.

“There may be some private discussions regarding the UK’s stance on this matter before the NATO meeting,” said Julie Norman, co-director of the Centre on U.S. Politics at University College London. “The U.S. is somewhat more cautious compared to other NATO allies. The UK’s leading role in this regard may give Biden the push and strong support he needs to move forward.”

Both the U.S. and the UK are staunch supporters of Kyiv. Norman pointed out that “the UK has taken the lead on some military commitments,” urging the Biden administration to take further action, including providing tanks and supporting an international initiative to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets.

“In some ways, this has played to Biden’s advantage, as he has faced increased resistance from certain factions within the Republican Party who are skeptical about providing excessive aid to Ukraine,” she explained. “The fact that the UK is actively pushing and leading on this issue gives Biden the nudge and robust support he requires to proceed.”

Biden’s decision to supply Ukraine with cluster bombs, banned under a convention signed by over 120 countries, including the UK, has raised concerns among allies like Britain. On Saturday, Sunak expressed that the UK “discourages their use.”

With a determination to showcase unity among Ukraine’s allies, the UK has refrained from voicing grievances over the lack of support from Washington for Defense Secretary Ben Wallace to become the next head of NATO. Instead, the term of current Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has been extended for another year.

The transatlantic relationship has experienced strains in recent years due to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, an act Biden believes has harmed the UK.

The president, who takes pride in his Irish heritage, has been particularly concerned about the impact of Brexit on the peace process in Northern Ireland. The resolution of a contentious dispute over trade rules for Northern Ireland between Britain and the EU in February was met with relief in Washington, as Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK that shares a border with an EU member.

Biden briefly visited Belfast in April to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland before spending several days in ancestral hometowns in the Republic of Ireland. His comment later that he visited Northern Ireland to ensure “the Brits didn’t mess around” drew criticism from some in the UK.

While some UK Conservatives are sensitive to perceived slights from the Democratic president, this will be Biden’s sixth meeting with Sunak, who assumed office in October. The British leader recently visited Washington, securing an “Atlantic Declaration” that promises closer economic collaboration in areas such as artificial intelligence, clean energy, and critical minerals.

This serves as a consolation for Britain, which failed to secure a free trade agreement with the U.S., a hope cherished by Brexit supporters.

For Sunak, standing alongside the American president offers a momentary respite from domestic challenges concerning a struggling economy and internal party divisions. Like Biden, Sunak will face an electoral judgment next year, with a deadline of late 2024 to call for a national election. With UK inflation at 8.7% in the year leading up to May—double the U.S. rate—millions of people are feeling the strain of the cost of living, and the governing Conservatives lag behind Labour in opinion polls.

This visit also raises the profile of 74-year-old Charles. Biden attended the late queen’s funeral in September but did not attend Charles’ coronation in May, instead sending First Lady Jill Biden.

Although Charles lacks the star power of his mother, who met with 13 American presidents and embarked on over 100 state visits during her 70-year reign, he has established himself as an environmental advocate, championing the protection of wildlife and the fight against climate change long before it gained widespread popularity.

“Charles is a prominent figure in the world of green and climate energy,” noted George Gross, a royal historian at King’s College London. “He’s a familiar face, so I believe there is no disadvantage to a U.S. president being photographed alongside him.”

Gross emphasized that while the British monarch lacks real political power, they possess “a tremendous amount of soft power” due to the allure of the royal mystique that attracts numerous world leaders.

“The UK government can convey certain messages through Charles in a way that the prime minister can’t,” he explained.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Ukraine

What topics will be discussed during Biden’s visit to the UK?

During Biden’s visit to the UK, he will engage in discussions about the environment with King Charles III and the war in Ukraine with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

What is the significance of the UK’s role in supporting Ukraine?

The UK has taken a leading role in supporting Ukraine, particularly in military commitments. This has nudged the Biden administration to take further action and garnered strong ally support in advancing issues such as providing tanks and supporting Ukraine’s acquisition of F-16 fighter jets.

What concerns have arisen regarding Biden’s decision to supply cluster bombs to Ukraine?

Allies like Britain have expressed concerns about Biden’s decision to supply Ukraine with cluster bombs, as they are banned under a convention signed by numerous countries. The UK has discouraged the use of such weapons.

How has the transatlantic relationship been impacted by Brexit?

The transatlantic relationship has experienced strains due to Britain’s exit from the European Union. Biden has expressed his belief that Brexit has harmed the UK, particularly concerning its impact on the peace process in Northern Ireland.

What are some key areas of economic collaboration between the UK and the US?

The UK and the US have committed to closer economic collaboration in various areas, including artificial intelligence, clean energy, and critical minerals. This collaboration was outlined in the “Atlantic Declaration” during the recent visit of UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to Washington.

What is the significance of Biden’s meeting with King Charles III?

Biden’s meeting with King Charles III holds importance as it highlights the role of the British monarchy in environmental advocacy. While Charles may not possess political power, his reputation as an environmental campaigner adds significance to the meeting.

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RoyalWatch22 July 9, 2023 - 7:59 pm

Biden meetin King Charles III, gud 2 see da US n UK talkin bout enviroment. Charles has soft power n is famus 4 his fight agnst climate change. Hope dis helps!

HistoryBuff2023 July 9, 2023 - 9:05 pm

NATO summit comin up. Ukraine is big issue, but US hesitnt. UK takin lead on military stuff. Wonder if dey gettin support.

PoliticalObserver88 July 9, 2023 - 10:50 pm

Brexit put strn on UK-US ties, but Biden n Sunak stil wrkin on economic collab. Trade deal no hapnin, but AI, clean energy, n minerals r imp. Sunak need dis boost b4 election!

JoeB123 July 10, 2023 - 1:34 am

ukraine n environment are imp isues disucussed btwn biden, UK politicians, n royalty. gr8 2 c UK taking led in helping ukraine, but sum concerns bout cluster bombs. also, transatlantic relatnship sufferin cuz of brexit. hope dis visit brngs unity!

EnviroAdvocate July 10, 2023 - 3:43 am

Biden discussin enviroment wif Charles, he real care bout climate change. Charles no politican, but has influence. Gud 2 c dem talkin bout dis!


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