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Biden issues surprise medal and turns up pageantry at NATO summit- Washington Examiner

President Joe Biden stepped onto the world stage when he addressed the opening ceremony of the 75th NATO summit as Democrats reconsider him as their nominee this election cycle.

Using the trappings of the presidency, Biden contrasted himself to former President Donald Trump during his remarks, which were delivered from a teleprompter. But he also borrowed from his predecessor’s political playbook by awarding a surprised outgoing NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg the country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

“This moment in history calls to our collective strength,” Biden told the crowd Tuesday. “Autocrats have overturned global order. Terrorist groups continue to plot evil schemes, cause mayhem and chaos and suffering. In Europe, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin‘s war of aggression against Ukraine continues.”

“Make no mistake: Ukraine can and will stop Putin,” he said to applause.

As he defends himself to Democrats, Biden also defended NATO amid concerns Trump could withdraw from the alliance should he be reelected. Trump has promised to remain in NATO as long as other members “play fair.”

To that end, Biden described NATO as being “stronger” than before with two additional members, Finland and Sweden, and with 23 spending at least 2% of their gross domestic product on defense.

In the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, where the Washington Treaty creating NATO was signed in 1949, Biden took the opportunity to thank Stoltenberg, who served an additional third term for 10 years in the role because of the Russia-Ukraine war.

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“I personally asked you to extend your service. Forgive me,” Biden said. “You put your own plans on hold. When Russia’s war on Ukraine began, you didn’t hesitate. Today, NATO is stronger, smarter, and more energized than when you began.”

Aside from Biden’s leadership challenge, the NATO summit agenda will be dominated by Ukraine. During his 15-minute speech, the president, who will meet with Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday, indicated the United States, along with Germany, Italy, Netherlands, and Romania, will provide the war-torn country with “dozens of additional tactical air defense systems.”

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