Stuck between Zelensky and Erdoğan unexpected obstacles for Biden at NATO summit… The details of the last-minute talks with the Turkish president


At the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, US President Joe Biden realized the need to make great efforts to convince his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, not to sabotage the NATO summit.

However, the one who made the work of US diplomacy more difficult this week was none other than Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

The Democratic US president considers what he describes as the unprecedented unity of Westerners in their support for Ukraine and NATO one of the main achievements of his first term, and the Vilnius summit was to serve as a front for that, before his re-election campaign in 2024.

However, as he prepared to fly to Europe on Sunday, a first threat appeared on his diplomatic agenda.

Türkiye, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), has regularly threatened to block Sweden’s accession to the defense alliance.

Then, suddenly, two days before the summit, Erdoğan put forward a new, unrealistic demand in exchange for his agreement to Sweden’s accession, the resumption of talks for Türkiye’s accession to the European Union.

Without hesitation, Biden carried his phone aboard Air Force One and called Erdoğan.

The conversation lasted about an hour.

The next day, Erdoğan backed away from opposing Swedish membership.

Of course, the matter didn’t end without intense behind-the-scenes diplomatic activity, as Erdoğan spoke with the Secretary-General of NATO and with the Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Christson and the President of the European Council, Charles Michel.

The content of Biden and Erdoğan’s contact remained secret, with the exception of the announcement of a meeting between the two presidents on the sidelines of the Vilnius Summit.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan declined to confirm whether the sale of the F16s to Türkiye was used as a bargaining chip or if Biden had forced Erdoğan to back down from the obstruction.

“Biden’s goal with this conversation was to see how the United States and Türkiye can move forward positively, not to paint a black or negative scenario,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan added that the expansion of NATO and the new meaning of its role is due in large part to the personal leadership of President Biden.

After settling the Turkish hurdle, Biden found himself faced with a second challenge, the wrath of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

A year and a half ago, NATO countries, led by the United States, began to deliver large quantities of weapons and economic aid to Ukraine to stop the Russian invasion of the former Soviet republic.

Ukraine wants more and demands joining NATO and the maximum security guarantee that comes with it provided by a collective defense system with nuclear weapons.

And when it became clear that NATO was sticking to the US position not to include Ukraine in NATO in the near future on the grounds that its accession would lead to the outbreak of a third world war, the Ukrainian president exploded.

Before he even reached Vilnius, Zelensky angrily attacked the absurd refusal of the Americans and NATO to allow his country to join the alliance in the near future.

However, after 24 hours, Zelensky left, thanking many countries, which allowed the summit to end in relative harmony.

The White House’s diplomatic efforts were evident, a mixture of promises and appeasement.

According to US officials, Biden was behind the initiative of the G7 countries pledging long-term military support to Ukraine.

At the same time, many messages were broadcast as a reminder that Ukraine wasn’t left to its fate.

“We’re not idling… We provide a large amount of weapons and military assistance to Ukraine,” Sullivan said.

On Wednesday morning, during his meeting with Zelensky, Biden reiterated his promise to give him what he needs as quickly as possible.

Zelensky said at the time that Washington had already provided more than $40 billion in military aid and repeated his messages of thanks for the tremendous help Ukraine was receiving.

In turn, Biden thanked Zelensky for his gratitude to the American people.

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