By Trevor Hunnicutt , Patricia Zengerle and Sabine Siebold

WASHINGTON - Joe Biden welcomes the heads of NATO member states to Washington on Tuesday for an annual summit that gives the embattled U.S. president an international stage to convince allies at home and abroad he can still lead.

Biden, 81, has vowed to press on in his race against Republican Donald Trump, 78, despite concern from Democrats on Capitol Hill and donors that he will lose the Nov. 5 election after a halting debate performance on June 27.

Biden, who will welcome foreign leaders on Tuesday with remarks that will be scrutinized for verbal flubs or confusion, made restoring traditional U.S. alliances abroad the centerpiece of his foreign policy after Trump challenged allies as part of an "America First" approach. The winner in November could have a substantial impact on the future of NATO and Europe.

Trump has suggested that, given a second term, he would not defend NATO members if they came under military attack and did not meet the alliance's defense spending target of 2% of their respective GDP. He has also questioned the amount of aid given to Ukraine in its battle against Russia's invasion.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy arrived in Washington on Tuesday and said he would "fight" for strong NATO decisions to strengthen Ukrainian air defenses and for more F-16 fighter jets.

"We are fighting for additional security guarantees for Ukraine - and these are weapons and finances, political support," he said in a video on the Telegram messaging app.

Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said NATO was committed to standing with Ukraine long term and would announce a new military command in Germany for training and equipping Ukrainian troops and appoint a senior representative in Kyiv to deepen ties.

He said the alliance would also announce plans to strengthen "critical" Ukrainian air defenses and build its air power through the provision of F-16s.

"(Russian President Vladimir) Putin cannot divide us. He cannot outlast us. He cannot weaken us. And Ukraine, not Russia, will prevail," Sullivan said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the summit would "further strengthen" Ukraine's path to NATO membership and produce "a very strong package" for Kyiv.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told defense industry leaders in Washington the summit would agree a pledge to enable arms makers across Europe and North America to produce at scale.

He also said NATO has placed an order for Stinger anti-aircraft missiles worth almost $700 million in the name of several member states.

The shoulder-fired Stinger missiles have been in hot demand in Ukraine, where they have successfully stopped Russian assaults from the air, and in neighboring European countries which fear they may also need to beat back Russian forces.

Zelenskiy is due to meet with Biden at the White House on Thursday and is scheduled to deliver an address on Tuesday evening.

Aides said Biden's opening speech, expected at 5 p.m. Eastern time (2100 GMT), will highlight what his administration sees as a key accomplishment: a stronger and more united NATO, under Washington's leadership, with more members and a resolve to meet their collective security needs.

That brings, they say, tangible results for American voters: a safer country, with a strong international economic position, more alliances and power abroad, and less at risk of conflict with its adversaries.

Trump and many Republican allies reject such arguments.

"Republicans, of course, celebrate the peace and prosperity that NATO has secured and will continue to stand by our partners as we prevent needless wars," said U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson, a top Republican and Trump ally, on Monday. "But we also believe that NATO needs to be doing more."


NATO, celebrating its 75th anniversary, has found new purpose in opposing Putin's Ukraine invasion and the grinding war will dominate private conversations between the leaders of the 32 member countries.

But those leaders, already anxious about the prospect of Trump's return, come to Washington with fresh concern about Biden's staying power, according to diplomats from their countries. One described Biden as bruised after a difficult political period and said their government was looking for signs about whether he would survive.

The week's events in Washington will give Biden a chance to address the concerns, including in his speech on Tuesday and a rare solo press conference on Thursday.

NATO leaders face political uncertainty in Europe, with paralysis looming in France after gains for left and far right parties, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz's coalition weakened after a poor showing in European Parliament elections.

New British Prime Minister Keir Starmer said as he headed to his first NATO summit that he would fulfill a campaign commitment to increase UK defense spending to 2.5% of GDP, but underlined he would only do so when the country could afford it and after a review of defense strategy.

Ukraine ultimately wants to join NATO to ward against further future attacks by Russia, but candidates have to be approved by all of the alliance's members, some of which are wary of provoking a direct war with Russia.

Some members want the alliance to make clear Ukraine is moving toward NATO "irreversibly" and are keen for language in a summit statement beyond the alliance's pledge last year that "Ukraine's future is in NATO."

A senior NATO official said on Tuesday Russia lacks the munitions and troops to start a major offensive in Ukraine and needs to secure significant ammunition supplies from other countries beyond what it already has.

But he estimated Russia would be able to sustain its war economy for three to four more years and also said "it will be some time" before Ukraine has amassed the munitions and personnel it needs to mount its own large-scale offensive operations.