A ring of steel has been placed around Regent’s Park in London today ahead of Joe Biden’s visit to Britain.
Police officers were this morning seen patrolling Winfield House, the official residence of the US Ambassador to the UK and erecting security fences just hours before his arrival.
President Biden flies to London later today on his way to a NATO summit in Lithuania next week.
He is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at No10 tomorrow before heading to Windsor Castle, where he will meet King Charles for the first time since the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in September.
Though not a full state visit with military honors and palace banquet, the setting is designed to underscore the importance of the trans-Atlantic ‘special relationship’ – tested by Brexit but reinforced by unity over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
A ring of steel has been placed around Regent’s Park in London today ahead of Joe Biden’s visit to Britain
Police officers were this morning seen patrolling Winfield House, the official residence of the US Ambassador to the UK and erecting security fences just hours before his arrival
President Biden is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at No10 tomorrow before heading to Windsor Castle, where he will meet King Charles for the first time since the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in September
Mr Sunak and the president will hold Ukraine-focused talks before both attend this week’s NATO meeting in Vilnius, which will discuss how far the military alliance should open the door to Ukraine.
NATO leaders said in 2008 that Ukraine would eventually become a member, but have not set out a road map, despite impassioned entreaties from President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
‘That is an area where the US is a little bit more hesitant than a lot of other NATO allies,’ said Julie Norman, co-director of the Centre on U.S. Politics at University College London.
‘There might be some closed-door discussions about where the UK is on that before going into the whole (NATO) meeting.’
The US and the UK are among the strongest Western supporters of Kyiv.
Ms Norman said that ‘if anything, the UK has taken a bit of a lead on some of the military commitments,’ nudging the Biden administration to go further on issues including tanks and an international effort to give Ukraine F-16 fighter jets.
‘I think in some ways that’s worked to Biden’s advantage as he’s gotten increased resistance at home from some wings of the Republican Party about not over-giving aid to Ukraine,’ she said.
‘The fact that the UK is pushing and leading on this gives Biden a bit of a nudge and a bit of a strong ally support in moving ahead.’
Biden faces unease from allies including Britain about his decision to give Ukraine cluster bombs, which are banned under a convention signed by more than 120 countries, including the UK. Mr Sunak said yesterday that Britain ‘discourages their use.’
People pass by security fences installed around Winfield House in Regent’s Park
Soldiers stand guard at a fence surrounding the venue of the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, where President Biden will travel to after visiting the UK
Preparations are being stepped up in Lithuania ahead of the NATO summit next week
Determined to show unity among Ukraine’s allies, the UK has refrained from complaining about failing to secure support from Washington for Defense Secretary Ben Wallace to become the next head of NATO.
Instead, the term of current Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has been extended by a year.
The transatlantic relationship has been strained in recent years by Britain’s exit from the European Union, an act Biden has made clear he thinks harmed the U.K.
The president, who proudly celebrates his Irish roots, was especially concerned about the impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland’s peace process.
Washington was relieved when Britain and the EU struck a deal in February to settle a thorny dispute over trade rules for Northern Ireland, the only part of the UK that shares a border with an EU member.
Biden briefly visited Belfast in April to mark 25 years since Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace agreement, before spending several days visiting ancestral hometowns in the Republic of Ireland.
He irked some in the UK by saying later that he’d visited Northern Ireland to make sure ‘the Brits didn’t screw around.’
While some Conservatives are sensitive about perceived slights from the Democrat president, this is Biden’s sixth meeting with Mr Sunak, who has been in office since October.
The British leader visited Washington last month, coming away with an ‘Atlantic Declaration’ promising closer economic cooperation in areas including artificial intelligence, clean energy and critical minerals.