Biden kicks off G7 summit with focus on Ukraine and global economy

TELFS, Austria — President Joe Biden kicked off a series of meetings with world leaders on Sunday in the Bavarian Alps, where the war in Ukraine was expected to dominate conversation as leaders sought ways to counter the effects of the conflict on the economy world and to increase in power. pressure on Russia.

Biden joined leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy and Japan, at the three-day G7 summit that began on Sunday, in starting with a one-on-one meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is organizing this year’s gathering. From Germany, Biden is expected to travel to Spain later this week for the annual meeting of NATO leaders.

The meetings come amid major challenges for Biden domestically and internationally. At home, Biden is dealing with the fallout from Friday’s Supreme Court ruling stripping away a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion and soaring inflation that threatens to plunge the United States into a recession. . Abroad, the war in Ukraine has triggered a looming global food shortage and soaring energy prices.

The G7 leaders met shortly after Russian missiles rocked Kyiv on Sunday, hitting a residential building in a city that had been a relatively safe haven in recent months.

“It’s more of their barbarity,” Biden said when asked by a reporter about the attack.

At the start of the summit, the leaders had agreed to ban imports of Russian gold, the second biggest export after oil for Russia and a major source of revenue, according to a source familiar with the matter.

“I think you should expect to see a series of measures designed to continually increase the pressure on [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and Russia,” an administration official said ahead of the summit. “We think the step that’s been taken with gold is a very important illustration of the additional steps we plan to take now and in the weeks to come.”

G7 leaders were also expected to discuss a possible price cap on Russian energy exports that would set a limit on how much countries would pay for Russian oil. Despite efforts by countries like the United States and Canada to punish Russia by cutting off oil imports, Russia has recorded record revenues since the start of the war due to soaring oil prices, according to a report by the Center for Clean Energy and Fresh Air.

During his meeting with Scholz on Sunday, Biden had the opportunity to pressure the German leader to increase his country’s material support for Ukraine, which drew criticism from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Germany has not banned energy imports from Russia and only recently began shipping heavy weapons to Ukraine.

Before their meeting, Biden stressed to Scholz the importance for the allies to stick together.

“We have to stick together,” Biden told Scholz, adding that Putin “expected, all along, that somehow NATO and the G7 would break up. But we didn’t.” and we won’t.”

“We can overcome all of this and come out stronger,” he added.

Germany, which relies heavily on Russian gas supplies, risks a recession and an energy shortage that would affect home heating and the operation of factories if it is unable to find alternative energy sources. . Earlier this month, Russia cut the amount of gas it ships to Germany.

The summit began as Russian forces continued to make slow and gradual progress in their assault. Before the bombardment of Kyiv, Ukrainian forces were forced to withdraw from a key eastern town of Sievierodonetsk after weeks of shelling and battles with invading Russian forces, a local official said on Friday, leaving the city of Lysychansk as the only obstacle to a full Russian takeover. half of Ukraine’s industrial heartland.

Ahead of his trip, Biden authorized an additional $450 million in arms shipments to Ukraine, bringing the total US commitment to $6.1 billion since the start of the war.

The latest set of equipment includes four high-mobility artillery rocket systems, 36,000 rounds of ammunition, 18 tactical vehicles, 1,200 grenade launchers, 2,000 machine guns, 18 coastal and river patrol boats, spare parts and other equipment, according to the Department of Defense.

Biden also said he has no plans to visit Ukraine while crossing Europe this week, which would make him one of the few G7 leaders yet to visit. the country. The leaders of France, Germany and Italy visited Kyiv earlier this month, giving their full support to Zelenskyy’s efforts not to cede any territory to Russia.

Biden said whether or not he goes there during his trip would depend on “a lot of things related to whether or not it causes more hardship for Ukrainians, whether it distracts from what is happening.”

Also on the agenda for Sunday’s G7 meetings were plans for a global infrastructure push aimed at countering China’s influence in low-income countries, an effort that officials say could mobilize hundreds billions of dollars in government and private sector investment, according to White House officials.

The White House has rebranded an initiative announced last year as “Rebuilding the World” within the Global Infrastructure Partnership and pledged to release further details at the G7 meeting on the type of infrastructure. investments that the initiative plans to make by leveraging large amounts of private sector dollars.

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