Biden urges Western unity on Ukraine amid war fatigue

ELMAO, Germany (AP) – President Joe Biden and his Western allies opened a three-day summit In the Bavarian Alps on Sunday, they are determined to prevent the economic fallout from the war in Ukraine from unraveling the global coalition working to punish Russian aggression. Britain’s Boris Johnson has warned leaders not to give in to “exhaustion” even as Russia fires new missiles at Kyiv.

The leaders are set to announce a new ban on Russian gold imports, the latest in a series of sanctions that the Club of Democracies hopes will further isolate Russia economically. They were also studying potential energy price caps intended to limit the profits Moscow could pump into its war effort.

Biden on Sunday formally launched a global infrastructure partnership designed to counter China’s influence in the developing world. The initiative aims to mobilize $600 billion with fellow G7 countries by 2027 to spend on global infrastructure projects.

US officials have long argued that China’s infrastructure initiative traps debt-receiving countries and investments that benefit China more than its hosts.

Russia, in a show of force ahead of the summit, launched its first missile strikes against the Ukrainian capital in three weeks, targeting at least two apartment buildings, according to Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko.

Biden condemned Russia’s actions as “more than their barbarism,” and stressed the need for allies to remain resolute even as the economic fallout from the war took its toll worldwide.

“We have to stay together, because Putin was counting, from the start, that somehow NATO and the G7 would break, but we didn’t and we won’t,” Biden said during the pre-summit meeting. Meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Schulz, who holds the rotating presidency of the Group of Seven and hosts the meeting.

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As the G7 leaders sat down for the summit’s opening session on Sunday, they took a light hit from Putin. Johnson could be heard asking if he should keep his jacket, adding, “We all have to show we’re stronger than Putin.” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “Riding a bare-breasted horse.”

Over the years, the Kremlin has published several photos of the Russian leader in which he appeared shirtless.

Biden and his counterparts were using the rally to discuss how to secure energy supplies and tackle the inflation caused by the fallout from the war. The leaders also came together in a new global infrastructure partnership aimed at providing an alternative to Russian and Chinese investment in the developing world.

Schulz told Biden that the “good message” was that “we all managed to stay united, which Putin never expected,” referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who sent his army across the border into Ukraine in late February.

“We cannot let this aggression take the form it was in and get away with it,” Biden added.

“Germany and the United States will always work together when it comes to Ukraine’s security issues,” said Schulz, who has faced criticism at home and abroad for his reluctance to send heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Johnson, for his part, urged fellow leaders not to succumb to “exhaustion”. He expressed concern about the possibility of divisions emerging in the pro-Ukrainian alliance as the four-month-old war drags on.

Asked if he thought France and Germany were doing enough, Johnson praised the “big steps” that Germany had taken to arm Ukraine and reduce Russian gas imports. He did not mention France.

Biden and Schultz agreed on the need for a negotiated end to the Ukraine war, but did not go into details of how to achieve that, said a senior Biden administration official, who asked not to be identified to reveal details of a private conversation.

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The official said they had not had an extensive discussion about setting a ceiling on oil prices or inflation.

Other leaders echoed Biden’s praise of the unity of the coalition.

The head of the European Union’s Council of Governments said the 27-nation bloc maintains “unwavering unity” in supporting Ukraine against the Russian invasion with money and political support, but “Ukraine needs more and we are committed to providing more.”

European Council President Charles Michel said EU governments are ready to provide “more military support, more financial resources and more political support” to enable Ukraine to defend itself and “limit Russia’s ability to wage war”.

The European Union has imposed six rounds of sanctions on Russia, most recently banning 90% of imports of Russian crude oil by the end of the year. This measure targets one of the pillars of the Kremlin’s public finances and revenues from oil and gas.

Biden and the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, as well as the European Union, spent Sunday in both formal and informal settings discussing the effects of the war on the global economy, including inflation, and infrastructure.

Biden, who arrived in Germany early Sunday, said the G7 countries, including the United States, would ban gold imports from Russia. An official announcement is expected on Tuesday as the leaders hold their annual summit.

Senior officials in the Biden administration said that gold is Moscow’s second largest export after energy, and that banning such imports would make it difficult for Russia to participate in global markets. Officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details before the announcement.

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Johnson said the ban “would hit the Russian oligarchs head-on and strike at the heart of Putin’s war machine.”

Putin is wasting his dwindling resources on this absurd barbaric war. “He is financing his egos at the expense of both the Ukrainian and Russian people,” Johnson said. “We need to starve the Putin regime of funding.”

Gold has, in recent years, been Russia’s largest export after energy — reaching nearly $19 billion, or about 5% of global gold exports, in 2020, according to the White House.

Of Russia’s gold exports, 90% was sent to the G7 countries. More than 90% of these exports, or roughly $17 billion, were made to the United Kingdom. The United States imported less than $200 million in gold from Russia in 2019, and less than $1 million in 2020 and 2021.

Regarding the idea of ​​capping energy prices, Michel said, “We want to go into detail, we want to fine tune it…to make sure we have a clear common understanding of what the direct effects are and what could be the side consequences” if such a step is taken by the group.

Leaders were also set to discuss how to maintain commitments on climate change while solving critical energy supply needs that resulted from the war.

“There is no easing of climate commitments,” Biden’s National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Saturday as the president flew to Germany.

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Superville reports from Telefs, Austria, and Molson from Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Associated Press writer Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.

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