LONDON — Joe Biden told Rishi Sunak he “couldn’t be meeting with a closer friend and a greater ally,” as the pair met briefly ahead of this week’s NATO summit in Vilnius.
In a sit-down that ran to just 40 minutes, the U.S president and British PM reaffirmed what Biden called “rock solid” relations between the two countries — despite a number of geopolitical splits straining the coveted “special relationship.”
The U.S. decision to arm Ukraine with cluster bombs — a controversial munition — opened a rift among NATO countries ahead of the summit, which kicks off Tuesday in Lithuania. Sunak said over the weekend that the U.K. “discourages” use of the weapons.
The U.K. and U.S. also appear at odds over Ukraine’s aim to join NATO, a key theme of this week’s summit.
In an interview Sunday, Biden said Ukraine is “not ready” to join NATO and that membership could only be considered once the war is over — whereas the U.K. is wholeheartedly backing Kyiv’s bid to join the alliance.
The leaders maintained a united front for the cameras as they met in Downing Street.
“We stand as two of the firmest allies in that alliance and I know we’ll want to do everything we can to strengthen Euro-Atlantic security,” Sunak told the U.S. president.
The summit marks the sixth time Sunak and Biden have met for talks since Sunak became prime minister last year.
In their last meeting, in June, Biden addressed Sunak as “Mr President” — before swiftly correcting himself.
After leaving Downing Street, the U.S. president will head to Windsor Castle where he will meet King Charles III for tea. The pair are expected to discuss the climate crisis, an issue with animates the British monarch.