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Starmer Says Biden in ‘Good Form’ During White House Meeting

US President Joe Biden, right, and Keir Starmer, UK prime minister, during a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, US, on Wednesday, July 10, 2024. Starmer today signaled Ukraine can strike military targets inside Russia with Britain’s Storm Shadow missiles, confirming he would continue the previous UK government's policy on the use of its long-range weapons in the Russia-Ukraine war. (Ting Shen/Bloomberg)

(Bloomberg) -- Prime Minister Keir Starmer emerged as Joe Biden’s chief defender at the NATO summit in Washington, saying the US president was “on good form” and “across the detail” in their White House meeting Wednesday.

“We were going at pace through a number of issues, which was really important to me because obviously it was my first opportunity to have a bilateral,” Starmer, who became British prime minister last week, told the BBC. He also said Biden had “showed incredible leadership” during the summit.

The NATO event was billed as a critical moment in international efforts to counter Russian aggression in Ukraine. But the summit has been dominated by the focus over Biden’s candidacy in the US presidential race following his disastrous debate performance against Donald Trump in June.

A slew of prominent Democrats and key donors have urged Biden to step aside. His team has touted a press conference later Thursday as a moment that will allay doubts about his ability to campaign against and defeat Trump. 

The furor surrounding Biden is far from ideal for Starmer as a newcomer to the world stage, and whose Labour Party is relatively more closely aligned to the Democrats in the US. In that context, it would be highly unlikely for Starmer to criticize Biden and especially not after their first encounter.

Still, Starmer’s defense was full-throated. Asked by Sky News if criticism of Biden, including from Democrat supporter George Clooney, was misguided, Starmer replied: “Yes. My own personal view is he was on good form.”

The problem for the UK premier is that the sustained questioning will likely dominate his own press conference at NATO, which is before Biden’s. Asked by the BBC bluntly if he thought the US president is senile, Starmer replied: “No.”

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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