An official explained that the 80-year-old president had too much upcoming work to attend the opening dinner of the NATO summit on Tuesday evening in Vilnius, Lithuania.
Biden “has four full days of official business and is preparing for a big speech tomorrow in addition to another day at the summit,” a U.S. official said, according to the New York Post.
Jennifer Jacobs, a correspondent for Bloomberg, provided an additional explanation provided by National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan in a tweet.
“He wasn’t the only leader who wasn’t there. But last night he thought he didn’t have to attend and then he would have every opportunity to sit with all of his colleagues at length on all of the significant issues of our time,” she quoted Sullivan as saying.
On why Biden skipped NATO dinner, @JakeSullivan46: "He wasn't the only leader who wasn't there. But last night he thought he didn't have to attend and then he would have every opportunity to sit with all of his colleagues at length on all of the significant issues of our time." pic.twitter.com/QtL7d4UpQz
— Jennifer Jacobs (@JenniferJJacobs) July 12, 2023
Biden is scheduled to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as part of the summit’s proceedings, deliver a speech at Vilnius University, and then travel to Helsinki, Finland, on Wednesday.
Tuesday evening, Secretary of State Antony Blinken represented Vice President Joe Biden at a dinner attended by the leaders of all 31 NATO nations in the Lithuanian capital.
Saturday was spent at Biden’s seaside house in Rehoboth, Delaware.
"I would criticize Joe Biden for skipping out on a NATO dinner because he’s too tired despite having taken a beach trip just this weekend but I’m afraid if I do he will get enraged and beat me up." https://t.co/pJBSRAbSkr
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) July 11, 2023
Biden appeared publicly perplexed on Monday while meeting with King Charles III of the United Kingdom and reviewing an honor guard at Windsor Castle in Berkshire, England.
According to the U.K. Daily Mail, the White House stated that after Biden skipped the dinner and returned to his hotel, he made a few phone calls to address the flooding that have damaged Vermont.
Ukraine’s desperation to become a member of the alliance is one of the summit’s most important issues.
“We will be in a position to extend an invitation to Ukraine to join the Alliance when Allies agree and conditions are met,” NATO said in an official statement, according to the U.K. Independent.
“What we have agreed to is a very substantive package with many different elements that helps to move Ukraine closer to NATO,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, according to the Independent.
Biden has said he opposes admitting Ukraine into NATO at the moment, but said he supports “a rational path for Ukraine to be able to qualify to be able to get into NATO.” according to Fox News.
Fox reported that he did not give specifics.
Angered at the rejection, according to Fox, Zelenskyy said Ukraine “deserves respect” and said “a window of opportunity is being left to bargain Ukraine’s membership in NATO in negotiations with Russia.”
He said this gives Russia “motivation to continue its terror.”