Joe Biden welcomes the heads of NATO member states to Washington on Tuesday for an annual summit, providing the embattled U.S. president an international stage to convince allies at home and abroad of his leadership capabilities.

Biden, 81, has vowed to continue his race against Republican Donald Trump, 78, despite concerns from Democrats on Capitol Hill and donors following a halting debate performance on June 27. As he greets foreign leaders, his remarks will be closely watched for any verbal slips or confusion. Biden’s focus on restoring traditional U.S. alliances abroad has been a cornerstone of his foreign policy, contrasting sharply with Trump’s “America First” approach. The outcome of the November election could significantly impact the future of NATO and Europe.

Trump has suggested that, if re-elected, he might not defend NATO members under attack if they fail to meet the alliance’s defense spending target of 2% of GDP. He has also questioned the level of aid given to Ukraine in its battle against Russia.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy arrived in Washington on Tuesday, vowing to “fight” for strong NATO decisions to bolster Ukrainian air defenses and secure more F-16 fighter jets. “We are fighting for additional security guarantees for Ukraine, including weapons, finances, and political support,” he said in a video on Telegram.

Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, stated that NATO is committed to standing with Ukraine long term and would announce a new military command in Germany for training and equipping Ukrainian troops, as well as appoint a senior representative in Kyiv to deepen ties. The alliance plans to strengthen Ukrainian air defenses and build its air power through the provision of F-16s.

“Putin cannot divide us. He cannot outlast us. He cannot weaken us. And Ukraine, not Russia, will prevail,” Sullivan said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken noted that the summit would “further strengthen” Ukraine’s path to NATO membership and deliver “a very strong package” for Kyiv. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg mentioned that the summit would agree on a pledge to enable arms manufacturers across Europe and North America to produce at scale, highlighting an order for Stinger anti-aircraft missiles worth almost $700 million.

The shoulder-fired Stinger missiles have been in high demand in Ukraine and neighboring European countries concerned about potential Russian aggression.

Zelenskiy is scheduled to meet with Biden at the White House on Thursday and deliver an address on Tuesday evening. Biden’s opening speech, expected at 5 p.m. Eastern time (2100 GMT), will emphasize his administration’s key accomplishment: a stronger and more united NATO, with more members and a commitment to collective security.

Biden’s aides argue that this brings tangible results for American voters, including a safer country, a strong international economic position, and fewer risks of conflict with adversaries. However, Trump and many Republican allies reject such claims.

“Republicans, of course, celebrate the peace and prosperity that NATO has secured and will continue to stand by our partners to prevent needless wars,” said U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson, a top Republican and Trump ally, on Monday. “But we also believe that NATO needs to be doing more.”


NATO, celebrating its 75th anniversary, has found renewed purpose in opposing Putin’s Ukraine invasion, a topic that will dominate private conversations among the leaders of the 32 member countries. However, diplomats from these countries have expressed concerns about Biden’s staying power, describing him as bruised after a difficult political period and looking for signs of his resilience.

The week’s events in Washington offer Biden an opportunity to address these concerns, including in his speech on Tuesday and a rare solo press conference on Thursday. NATO leaders also face political uncertainty in Europe, with paralysis looming in France and a weakened coalition in Germany.

New British Prime Minister Keir Starmer, heading to his first NATO summit, has pledged to increase UK defense spending to 2.5% of GDP but noted it would be contingent on the country’s financial situation and a review of defense strategy.

Ukraine ultimately seeks NATO membership to guard against future Russian attacks, but candidates must be approved by all alliance members, some of whom are wary of provoking direct conflict with Russia. Some members want the alliance to clearly state that Ukraine is moving toward NATO “irreversibly” and seek language beyond the pledge that “Ukraine’s future is in NATO.”

A senior NATO official said on Tuesday that Russia lacks the munitions and troops for a major offensive in Ukraine and needs significant ammunition supplies from other countries. However, he estimated that Russia could sustain its war economy for three to four more years and noted that it would take some time before Ukraine has amassed the munitions and personnel needed for large-scale offensive operations.