President Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak affirmed their support for Ukraine on Thursday, pledging to continue mobilizing financial and military aid for Kyiv as fighting intensifies on Russian front lines.
Mr Sunak, who made his first visit as prime minister to Washington and intends to establish a post-Brexit Britain as a capable and reliable global player, said his country would not turn away not from Ukraine. The pledge comes even as he and Mr. Biden face economic headwinds and domestic concerns about the length of the war.
“There is no point in trying to wait for us,” Mr. Sunak said during a press conference with Mr. Biden in the East Room of the White House, addressing Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, that he accused of mistakenly assuming the West would tire of providing support. “We will be here as long as it takes.”
Mr Biden said he was confident he could persuade a divided Congress to support a new round of funding for Ukraine, although he would not put a dollar amount on the package.
“I think we will have the funding to support Ukraine for as long as it takes,” Biden said, adding that a “vast majority” of his critics in Congress would agree that funding Ukraine would be better. than to let Russia go. unchecked.
Sunak’s two-day visit was a major engagement for a 43-year-old leader who has only been in office since October and is eager to establish himself on the world stage. It was also an opportunity for Mr Biden to deepen his relationship with a young leader who, in times of turmoil, has always been one of the US president’s closest allies.
Both men praised the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom, each taking time to congratulate the other for their leadership in Ukraine. But Mr Sunak, who was seeking a free trade deal with the United States – something Brexit supporters in Britain had promised as an alternative to European Union membership – will only leave Washington. with a modest pact unveiled by the two countries. THURSDAY.
The agreement, called the Atlantic Declaration, will bring countries together on research around quantum computing, semiconductor technologies and artificial intelligence, an area in which developments often outpace efforts. to regulate them.
“What it does is respond to the particular opportunities and challenges we face now and in the future,” Mr Sunak said of the deal, when asked if it meant that he had broken his promise to conclude a trade agreement. Mr Biden, whose Cut Inflation Act has raised some concerns among allies, said bolstering US manufacturing and strengthening supply chains “would not harm any of our allies. and friends in terms of trade coins”.
Mr Sunak did not score an easy victory in his meek campaign to replace NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who is expected to step down in September. Mr Sunak publicly lobbied for his Defense Secretary Ben Wallace to take the job. When a reporter asked if it was time for a British official to take the post of general secretary, Mr Sunak smiled broadly, but Mr Biden did not take the bait.
“That remains to be seen,” Mr. Biden said. Earlier in the week, he hosted Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, who is also believed to be interested in the job.
Mr Biden had warm words for Mr Sunak regarding the Prime Minister’s efforts to bring leaders together on the issues raised by artificial intelligence. Mr Sunak is a self-proclaimed “techie” who will host an AI summit later this year.
“We are counting on Britain to help make this effort to find a way to solve this problem so that we are in full and complete cooperation,” Mr Biden said.
The AI exchange was met with measured skepticism by pundits who noted that a post-Brexit prime minister’s efforts may not spur leaders to act.
“A conference in London on AI regulation is a good thing,” said Peter Ricketts, former national security adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron. wrote on Twitter. “The British are good at summoning. But that is not the same as leading the setting of standards. The bulk of the work is underway in the US-EU dialogue.
But others pointed out that Mr Sunak had worked to bring his country closer to a range of allies, including signing a plan with the United States and Australia to develop and deploy submarines. nuclear-powered attack.
“Doing all this partnering with the United States and Australia, and even Korea and Singapore, is the most natural way for him to continue to help Britain punch above his weight,” said Michael E.O. ‘Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said in an interview.
Mr Biden and Mr Sunak have met several times at diplomatic events in recent months, including over coffee when Mr Biden visited Northern Ireland in April. Despite their political differences – Mr. Biden is a moderate liberal and Mr. Sunak a conservative – the two men have a shared leadership style that emphasizes balanced diplomacy.
Mr Biden has spent much of his term seeking to stabilize US relations with allies around the world after the Trump presidency. And Mr Sunak, who became Prime Minister after the bombastic tenure of Boris Johnson and the very brief one of Liz Truss, has sought to establish himself as a more reliable occupant of 10 Downing Street. Yet both leaders have low approval ratings, and the two leading countries that have so far managed to avoid an economic recession but whose voters feel financially constrained by inflation.
On that visit, Mr Sunak was under pressure to assure skeptics in the US and at home that post-Brexit Britain remains as reliable an ally as ever. He came to Washington with gifts, including a personalized Barbour jacket, a staple of British outerwear, for Mr Biden, and the two leaders peppered their meetings with historical acquaintances about the prime minister’s past relationship with the president.
“Prime Ministers Churchill and Roosevelt met here just over 70 years ago, and they said the strength of the partnership between Britain and the United States was the strength of the free world,” said Mr Biden. “I still think there is some truth to that statement.”
There were occasional personal flourishes – mostly from Mr Sunak – notably when the Prime Minister mentioned at the press conference that their wives got to know each other during spin lessons. At one point he complimented his accommodation at Blair House, the house across the White House reserved for foreign dignitaries: “The guest bedroom in the flat at number 10 Downing Street is not all quite comparable,” he joked.
Yet their bond does not yet appear to be the same one Tony Blair forged with President Bill Clinton and then with President George W. Bush. At another point, Mr Sunak invoked Churchill’s morning wanderings in the White House and “bothered Mrs Roosevelt”.
“Don’t worry,” Mr. Sunak said, “you won’t see me doing this.”
Stephen’s Castle contributed reporting from London.