President Joe Biden raised eyebrows Tuesday night after skipping dinner with NATO leaders and heading straight to his hotel in Lithuania.
A US official blamed the 80-year-old president’s busy four-day schedule and said he was preparing for a ‘big speech’ on Wednesday when asked why he was not attending.
Biden, who had only been in Europe since Sunday night and went to the beach on Saturday, was replaced by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
The presidential snub comes after he told Turkish President Recep Erdogan he would win re-election – and work with him for the next five years.
Despite concerns about his health and age, he remains confident about his prospects in 2024. Biden will be 86 at the end of his second term.
President Joe Biden skipped dinner with NATO leaders Tuesday night and headed straight to his hotel in Lithuania after meeting with Turkish President Erdogan.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena led dignitaries on the first night of the summit in Vilnius.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau were also present as well as French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte.
Earlier on Tuesday, Erdogan thanked the US president for congratulating him after his own election – which went on a run that had some officials contemplating less strained relations with Turkey, after using his strategic position to maintain ties with Russia.
‘Thank you. I look forward to being with you over the next five years, Mr. President,’ Biden said.
Erdogan called his meeting with Biden a ‘step forward’ and referred to his own five-year term.
‘And with the upcoming elections, I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the best,’ said Erdogan.
Donald Trump has regularly touted his bond with Erdogan during his time in the White House.
‘He’s a friend of mine, and I’m glad we didn’t have a problem because, frankly, he’s a hell of a leader, and he’s a tough man, he’s a strong man,’ Trump said in 2019.
Biden and top advisers remained silent as reporters took questions after his meeting with Erdogan. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and US White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan look on during the bilateral meeting.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his wife Olena Zelenska attend a dinner with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nouseda and his wife Diana Nousedian
The Turkish strongman was speaking on a day when he set aside opposition to recognize Sweden and achieved a key objective – namely getting F-16 fighter jets from the US.
National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters in Vilnius on Thursday that Biden had previously been ‘clear that he supports handing over the jets’.
‘He had no reservations about it… he wanted to go ahead with that transfer,’ he said.
Officials were vague about additional details and noted that the Greeks had attended a final meeting on the matter. Biden himself mentioned the jets in a recent CNN interview before flying to London for the start of his trip to Sweden.
Biden was tight-lipped after his comments, with U.S. reporters asking him a series of questions about the outline of the deal that brought Russia’s eastern edge to Sweden.
He pursed his lips as aides signaled the end of the press event and ushered members of the media out of the room where they were meeting.
Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, a Biden ally, spoke of diplomatic progress in Vilnius, telling DailyMail.com that there was a “serious question” when Biden was sworn in about whether the alliance was viable after Trump.
Durbin said an alliance that was ‘in shambles’ is now a ‘strong, effective, credible operation’ with members Finland and Sweden seeking to join.
Asked if Biden was bringing anything home, he replied: ‘He definitely is. It is significant. It’s historic.’
Earlier, Biden vowed to defend ‘every inch’ of NATO territory, as the powerful alliance took a major step to add its 32nd member.
The president spoke in the capital Vilnius at the start of the summit as his national security adviser, Jack Sullivan, said talk of a split over support for Ukraine was “grossly exaggerated”.
‘As I’ve said before, we take – NATO takes – we all take Article V literally,’ Biden said as he met with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda at the start of the summit on Tuesday.
He said all members are committed to the mutual defense obligations of the NATO Charter. ‘We stand together against those who are violating that space. We are going to protect every inch of it,’ he said.
Jack Sullivan warned on Tuesday that Vladimir Putin would be ‘disappointed’ with what emerged from the summit.
A top aide to President Biden claims Washington’s decision to send controversial cluster bombs to Kiev’s armed forces has fueled the rift.
The first couple of Ukraine were accompanied by French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife Brigitte
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 the dignitaries dinner on Tuesday night
Biden spent a few hours on the beach with his family in Delaware on Saturday
President Joe Biden vowed to defend ‘every inch’ of NATO territory as he met with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nouceda at the presidential palace at the start of the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania on Tuesday.
Biden began the summit after a key breakthrough that would have increased the coalition to 32 members
Biden signed a book before meeting with the Lithuanian president
Biden spoke of the strength of coalitions. About 1,000 US troops are stationed in Lithuania, which borders Russia’s ally Belarus
Lithuanian President Gitanas Nouceda, right, welcomes US President Joe Biden to the Presidential Palace ahead of the NATO summit in Vilnius
Biden’s advisers say Vilnius is a show of coalition unity
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was among the voices who expressed concern about sending highly lethal weapons to the war-torn country.
But in a response to DailyMail.com, Sullivan dismissed claims that the 31-nation military alliance had broken down to support Ukraine’s military.
‘I would say the rumors of the death of NATO unity are greatly exaggerated,’ he said. ‘Vladimir Putin has been counting on cracking the West, cracking NATO and cracking the Transatlantic Alliance, and he’s been disappointed at every turn.’
Sullivan added that the Russian tyrant would be “very disappointed” with what emerged from the two-day meeting in Lithuania.
And in a clear sign of rising tensions, Russia’s ambassador to the US, Anatoly Antonov, accused Washington of plotting a ‘conflict’ with Moscow.
“Everything is being done to create domestic public opinion for the approval of the anti-Russian decision that will be taken in Vilnius in the coming days,” he was quoted as saying by the Kremlin mouthpiece RIA news agency.