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Biden kicks off G7 summit with focus on Ukraine, 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 is expected to dominate conversation as leaders look for ways to counter the conflict’s effects on the global economy and ratchet up pressure on Russia. 

Biden is scheduled to join the leaders of the world’s wealthiest democracies, including Canada, the U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Japan, at the three-day G7 summit that begins Sunday, starting with a one-on-one meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is hosting this year’s gathering. From Germany, Biden is slated to travel to Spain later this week for the annual NATO leaders meeting. 

The meetings come amid tall challenges for Biden domestically and internationally. At home, Biden faces the fallout from the Supreme Court ruling on Friday eliminating a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion, and soaring inflation that threatens to pull the U.S. into a recession. Abroad, the war in Ukraine has triggered a looming global food shortage and soaring energy prices.

June 25, 202203:00

Among the actions the leaders are expected to announce out of the three-day summit will be a ban on imports of Russian gold, which is the second largest export after oil for Russia and a significant source of revenue, said a senior administration official said in a call with reporters.

“I think you should expect to see a series of steps that are designed to increase pressure in an ongoing way on Putin and Russia,” the official said. “We think that the step that’s being taken with gold is a very important illustration of the additional steps that we expect to be taken now and in the weeks ahead.”

The G7 leaders are also expected to discuss a potential 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 U.S. and Canada to punish Russia by cutting off oil imports, Russia has taken in record revenue since the start of the war due to the spike in oil prices, according to a report by the Center for Clean Energy and Fresh Air. 

At his meeting with Scholz Sunday, Biden had an opportunity to press the German leader to increase his country’s material support for Ukraine, which has drawn criticism from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Germany has not banned energy imports from Russia, and has only recently started shipping heavy weaponry to Ukraine. 

Ahead of their meeting Biden emphasized to Scholz the importance of the allies staying united.

“We have to stay together,” Biden said to Scholtz, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin was “counting on from the beginning that NATO and the G7 would splinter. But we haven’t and we’re not going to.”

“We’ll get through this,” Biden said.

Germany, which is heavily reliant on Russian gas supplies, risks a recession and an energy shortage that would affect home heating and factory operations if it is unable to find alternative sources of energy. 

The conversations come as Russian forces have continued to make slow, incremental progress in their assault. Ukrainian forces were forced to retreat from a key eastern city of Sievierodonetsk after weeks of bombardment and battles with invading Russian forces, a local official said Friday, leaving the city of Lysychansk as the only barrier between Russia taking full control of half of Ukraine’s industrial heartland. 

Ahead of this trip, Biden authorized another $450 million in weaponry to be sent to Ukraine, bringing the total U.S. commitment to $6.1 billion since the start of the war. 

The latest round 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 riverine patrol boats, spare parts and other equipment, according to the Defense Department. 

Biden said he doesn’t plan to travel to Ukraine during the swing through Europe this week, which would leave him as one of the few G7 leaders yet to visit the country. The heads of France, Germany and Italy visited Kyiv earlier this month, giving full-throated support to Zelenskyy’s efforts not to cede any territory to Russia.

Biden has said whether or not he travels there during his trip would depend on “a lot of things relating to whether or not it causes more difficulty for the Ukrainians, whether it distracts from what’s going on.”

Also on the agenda for the G7 meetings on Sunday will be plans for a global infrastructure push aimed at countering China’s influence in lower-income countries, an effort that officials say could leverage hundreds of 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 “Build Back World” to the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and pledged to release further details at the G7 meeting on the type of investments the initiative plans to make by largely leveraging private sector dollars.