‘We have to stay together’: Biden talks about alliance behind Ukraine


ELMAU, Germany (AP) – President Joe Biden on Sunday praised the continued unity of the global alliance in confronting Russia, as he and other heads of the Group of Seven major economies laid out a strategy to keep pressure in their efforts to isolate Moscow during its most famous – long invasion of Ukraine.

Biden and his counterparts met to discuss how to secure energy supplies and tackle inflation, with the goal of preventing the fallout from the war from splintering the global coalition working to punish Moscow. They were due 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 over its invasion of Ukraine.

Leaders were also coming together in a new global infrastructure partnership aimed at providing an alternative to Russian and Chinese investment in the developing world.

“We have to make sure that we all stay together,” Biden said during a pre-summit meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Schulz, who holds the rotating G7 presidency and hosts the meeting. “As you know, we will continue to work on the economic challenges that we face but I think we are getting through all of this.”

Schulz replied 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.

Biden replied, “We have to stay together, because Putin had been counting, from the start, that NATO and the G7 would somehow break up, but we didn’t and we won’t.” They sat on a balcony overlooking the picturesque Bavarian Alps.

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

A senior administration official said Biden and Schulz did not have an extensive discussion about caps on oil prices or inflation. The official, who asked not to be identified, to reveal details of a private conversation, said the leaders agreed, however, on the need for a negotiated end to the Ukraine war, but did not dwell on how to achieve it.

Hours before the summit officially opened, Russia launched missile strikes on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said, targeting at least two apartment buildings. The strikes were the first of their kind to Russia in three weeks.

Biden condemned Russia’s actions as “more than their barbarism.”

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-member 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, were spending Sunday in both formal and informal settings, including working sessions on 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.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the ban “would directly hit the Russian oligarchs 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.

Among the issues to be discussed is a cap on energy prices, which are intended to limit the profits from Russian oil and gas that Moscow can pump into its war effort. US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has defended the idea.

Michel said that the price ceiling for Russian oil imports is under discussion. But, he said, “we want to go into detail, we want to fine tune it…to make sure we have a clear shared understanding of what the immediate effects are and what the side-effects could be” if such a move was 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.

Biden is also set to formally launch a global infrastructure partnership designed to counter China’s influence in the developing world. It’s called “Rebuilding a Better World” and presented the program at the G-7 Summit last year.

Kirby said Biden and other leaders will announce the first projects to take advantage of what the United States sees as “an alternative to infrastructure models that sell debt traps to low- and middle-income partner countries.” The projects are also supposed to help enhance the economic competitiveness of the United States and our national security.

After the Group of Seven summit wraps up on Tuesday, Biden will head to Madrid for a summit of leaders of the 30 NATO member states to align strategy on the war in Ukraine.

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Superville report from Telfs, Austria. Associated Press writers Jill Lawless in London and Jerry Molson in Elmau, Germany contributed to this report.

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