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Politics chat: Biden and G7 discuss Ukraine; abortion rights and gun control bills

ELISSA NADWORNY, HOST:

President Biden is in Germany today at a G-7 meeting. The Group of Seven consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the U.K. and the U.S. This week's meeting comes just before a NATO summit in Spain. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is traveling with the president, and she joins us now. Hey, Tam.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Hi, Elissa.

NADWORNY: So Ukraine is top of mind for the leaders gathering at both meetings, right?

KEITH: Absolutely. There were new airstrikes in Ukraine overnight, including in Kyiv, and President Biden was asked to respond to that. He said it's more of Russia's barbarism. So with this war dragging on, a big focus of this series of meetings is further isolating Russia in the global economy. President Biden announced that the U.S. will ban Russian gold imports, and the full G-7 is set to officially announce that ban on Tuesday. Gold is Russia's second-largest export after oil, and something like 90% of it goes to G-7 countries. So this certainly ratchets up the pressure. And President Biden at this meeting is again emphasizing unity.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: We have to stay together.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Yeah.

BIDEN: Because Putin has been counting on from the beginning that somehow NATO would - and the G-7 would splinter, and - but we haven't, and we're not going to.

KEITH: The leaders are also going to spend significant time here discussing global fuel shortages and food shortages tied to the war, as well as inflation, which has been exacerbated by those challenges. In March, when Biden attended emergency meetings of the G-7 and NATO after the Russian invasion, he warned that it would likely require sacrifices. And now those economic sacrifices are far more tangible, far more apparent than they were back then.

NADWORNY: Yeah. I want to play something Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the U.K. said on Friday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRIME MINISTER BORIS JOHNSON: Clearly, it has massive impacts on people's thinking around the world. It's a very important decision. I got to tell you, I think it's a big step backwards.

NADWORNY: He's commenting there on the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. And two more G-7 leaders also criticized the ruling, didn't they?

KEITH: Well, three, if you count President Biden. But yes, Canada's Justin Trudeau called the decision horrific. He said he can't imagine the fear and anger that American women are feeling. Emmanuel Macron of France said on social media that abortion is a fundamental right for women, and he expressed his solidarity with those whose freedoms have been compromised, he said, by the U.S. Supreme Court. So this wasn't just Earth-shaking news in the U.S., it's also a big story in other countries, too.

Now, when it comes to President Biden, he did deliver remarks on Friday after the decision. But so far, he's only very briefly responded to one shouted question about the ruling, which is to say that there are a lot of questions that remain unanswered about how he might act in response to this ruling. And he has been quick to say that his executive powers are limited on this, and he's called for people who are upset by the ruling to vote for Democrats in November. But an open political question is whether this will be motivating for people or whether those who support action are just tired of being told the best option is to keep voting for Democrats.

NADWORNY: Yeah. Just before he left, the president signed the new gun bill, but he didn't really do it with much fanfare.

KEITH: That's right. He's promising a more formal signing ceremony, a more - larger celebration in July. But he said he wanted to sign the bill quickly to get its provisions into effect as fast as possible. There's also an element of banking a win in a week when the Supreme Court decision on abortion delivered a serious defeat.

NADWORNY: So you're in the Alps until Tuesday, and then you're off to Spain for the NATO summit. What are you expecting there?

KEITH: Right. And obviously, the president is going, too. You know, more pushback on Russia for its war in Ukraine, as well as a discussion of the applications of Finland and Sweden to join the alliance, though no action is expected on that just yet. NATO will also put out a new strategic concept - that's a 10-year planning document that hasn't been updated in more than 10 years. You'll expect to see a lot more about Russia and China than we did more than a decade ago.

NADWORNY: That's NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, who's traveling with the president. Thanks, Tam.

KEITH: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.