President Joe Biden has turned heads after skipping dinner with NATO leaders Tuesday night and instead heading straight to his hotel in Lithuania.
A US official blamed the 80-year-old president’s busy schedule for four days and said he is preparing for a “big speech” on Wednesday when asked why he was not in attendance.
Biden, who has only been in Europe since Sunday night and went to the beach on Saturday, had Secretary of State Antony Blinken attend.
The president’s snub came after he told Turkish President Recep Erdogan that he would win re-election and would work with him for the next five years.
Despite growing concerns about his health and age, he was confident in his chances in 2024. Biden would be 86 at the end of his second term.
President Joe Biden skipped dinner with NATO leaders on Tuesday night, instead heading straight to his hotel in Lithuania after meeting with Turkey’s President Erdogan.
The White House later revealed that Biden made a series of phone calls as he returned to his lodgings to address severe flooding in Vermont.
He spoke with Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, Sen. Bernie Sanders and FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell about “their commitment to providing the necessary federal assistance to help respond to severe flooding,” a US official said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his wife Olena led dignitaries on the first night of the summit in Vilnius.
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte were also in attendance along with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Earlier on Tuesday, Erdogan thanked the US president for congratulating him after his own election, which went to a runoff in which some officials contemplated a less strenuous relationship with Turkey, after he used his strategic position to maintain ties with Russia.
‘Thank you. I look forward to being with you in the next five years, Mr. President,’ Biden said.
Erdogan called his meeting with Biden a “step forward” and referenced his own five-year term.
“And with the upcoming elections, I would like to take this opportunity to wish him the best of luck as well,” Erdogan said.
Donald Trump regularly attested to his link to Erdogan when he was in the White House.
“He’s a friend of mine and I’m glad we didn’t have any problems because, frankly, he’s a great leader, he’s a tough man, he’s a strong man,” Trump said in 2019.
Biden and top aides fell silent as reporters yelled questions after his meeting with Erdogan. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and US White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan look on during a bilateral meeting .
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska attended the dinner with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda and his wife Diana Nausediene.
The Turkish strongman spoke on a day where he achieved a key goal by putting aside his opposition to admitting Sweden, namely obtaining F-16 fighter jets from the US.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters in Vilnius on Thursday that Biden had “made it clear that he supports the transfer” of the planes.
“He hasn’t made any reservations about this… He intends to go ahead with that transfer,” he said.
Officials have been vague about additional details, noting that the Greeks were involved in a final meeting on the issue. Biden himself mentioned the planes in the context of bringing Sweden in a recent CNN interview before heading to London for the start of his trip.
Biden remained mum after his comments, barely flinching when American reporters fired at him with a series of questions about the contours of the deal that will bring Sweden on Russia’s eastern flank.
He kept his lips pursed as attendees signaled the press event was over and escorted members of the media out of the room where they were meeting.
Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, a Biden ally, spoke about the diplomatic breakthrough in Vilnius, telling DailyMail.com there was a “serious question” when Biden was sworn in on whether the alliance was viable after Trump.
Durbin said an alliance that had been “shaky” was now a “strong, viable and credible operation” with Finland as a member and Sweden seeking to join.
Asked if Biden was bringing something home, he replied: ‘He certainly is. It is significant. It is historical.
Biden earlier vowed to defend “every inch” of NATO territory as the powerful alliance took a key step to add its 32nd member.
The president was speaking in the capital Vilnius at the start of the summit when his national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said that talk of divisions over support for Ukraine had been “grossly overblown.”
“As I said before, we take, NATO takes, we all take Article V literally,” Biden said when meeting Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda at the start of the summit on Tuesday.
He said that all members were committed to the mutual defense obligations of the NATO Charter. We stand together against whoever is violating that space. We are going to defend every inch,” he said.
Jake Sullivan warned Tuesday that Vladimir Putin will be “disappointed” by what emerges from the summit.
President Biden’s top adviser has lashed out at claims that divisions had erupted over Washington’s decision to send controversial cluster bombs to kyiv’s armed forces.
French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte also attended with the first couple from Ukraine.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (front), British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (second row left) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (second row right) lead dignitaries to dinner on Tuesday night.
Biden spent a few hours at the beach with his family in Delaware on Saturday.
President Joe Biden vowed to defend “every inch” of NATO territory when he met Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda at the Presidential Palace at the start of the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Tuesday.
Biden kicked off the summit after a key breakthrough that would grow the alliance to 32 members.
Biden signed a book before his meeting with the Lithuanian president
Biden touted the strength of the alliance. The United States has about 1,000 troops serving in Lithuania, which borders Russian ally Belarus.
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, right, receives US President Joe Biden at the Presidential Palace ahead of the NATO summit in Vilnius.
Biden aides say alliance unity is on display in Vilnius
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was among a chorus of voices raising concerns about the shipment of highly lethal weapons to the war-torn country.
But in a reply to DailyMail.com, Sullivan dismissed claims that the 31-nation military alliance fractured over its support for the Ukrainian military.
“I would say that the rumors about the death of the NATO unit were greatly exaggerated,” he said. “Vladimir Putin has been counting on the West falling apart, NATO falling apart and the transatlantic alliance falling apart and has been disappointed with every turn.”
The Russian tyrant will be “very disappointed” by what emerges from the two-day meeting in Lithuania, Sullivan added.
And in a clear sign that tensions were rising, the Russian ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, accused Washington of planning a “confrontation” with Moscow.
“Everything possible is being done to prepare national public opinion for the approval of the anti-Russian decisions that will be taken in Vilnius in the coming days,” a Kremlin spokesman was quoted as saying by the RIA news agency.