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Bon Voyage! Biden heads to Belgium, Spain

President Obama had to cancel his most recent trip to Europe due to the huge ash cloud, but this week Europeans will get the next-best thing — a visit from Vice President Joseph Biden. The White House is billing the trip as a big freaking deal in the security sphere, with Biden slated to give ...

Getty Images
Getty Images
Getty Images

President Obama had to cancel his most recent trip to Europe due to the huge ash cloud, but this week Europeans will get the next-best thing -- a visit from Vice President Joseph Biden.

The White House is billing the trip as a big freaking deal in the security sphere, with Biden slated to give a "major address" to the European Parliament and hold discussions with several European leaders on the future of NATO, U.S. nuclear weapons and missile defense in Europe, and the U.S.-EU-Russian relationship.

President Obama had to cancel his most recent trip to Europe due to the huge ash cloud, but this week Europeans will get the next-best thing — a visit from Vice President Joseph Biden.

The White House is billing the trip as a big freaking deal in the security sphere, with Biden slated to give a "major address" to the European Parliament and hold discussions with several European leaders on the future of NATO, U.S. nuclear weapons and missile defense in Europe, and the U.S.-EU-Russian relationship.

"We no longer see Europe in zero-sum, Cold War terms," Biden writes in an op-ed that will appear in the International Herald Tribune Thursday. "Promoting trust within Europe requires understanding how neighbors understand their security challenges and how they intend to confront those challenges."

And he’s not showing up in Europe empty-handed. Biden will have brought with him proposals to improve military transparency through more data sharing, and says he is willing to "explore" limitations on the size and location of conventional forces there. He is also supporting an expanded role for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in conflict prevention and mediation in the wake of the Russia-Georgia war of 2008.

Biden makes a clear reference to former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s January 2003 claim that there was a "new Europe" and an "old Europe," a comment that angered Western European leaders at the time.

"Sustainable security in Europe requires peace and stability for all of Europe — not old or new Europe, East or West Europe, NATO or non-NATO Europe," Biden writes. "We seek an open and increasingly united Europe in which all countries, including Russia, play their full roles … And most importantly, we cannot permit the re-establishment of spheres of influence in Europe."

Biden’s whirlwind itinerary shows that the answer to former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger‘s famous quip, "Who do I call if I want to call Europe?," has not gotten much simpler, if at all, since last year’s ratification of the Lisbon Treaty.

Biden will arrive in Brussels Wednesday night and meet with NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen Thursday morning, before addressing the European Parliament. Later Thursday he will meet with the body’s president, Jerzy Buzek, as well as European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

Thursday evening he’ll sit down to a working dinner with all 28 permanent representatives to the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s political committee.

Friday, Biden will meet with Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme before taking off to Madrid, where he will meet with King Juan Carlos. Saturday, he will meet with President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, hold a press conference, and then head back to Washington. Spain is due to take over the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union next year.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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