The eagle has landed: what to expect from Biden’s visit to Brussels

The eagle has landed: what to expect from Biden’s visit to Brussels
Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo (left) and US President Joe Biden. Credit: Belga

US President Joe Biden touched down in Brussels on Wednesday evening to discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine at an urgent NATO summit and a European Council meeting, after which he will fly to Poland.

For the meetings with NATO, EU and G7 leaders, the US President will be joined by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Packed schedule

Air Force One, the US president’s plane, landed at Melsbroek military airport just before 21:00 on Wednesday, De Morgen reports. Biden was welcomed by Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo.

On Twitter, Biden thanked De Croo for "the warm welcome in Brussels" and added that he was looking forward to working together with all allies and partners to continue to respond to "Putin's war of choice in Ukraine." In turn, De Croo called Biden's presence in Europe "a strong signal of transatlantic unity in the face of Russia's brutal aggression in Ukraine."

The American embassy hosted the president for the night, while the President's entourage stayed in The Hotel. This retinue came to 700 people on his last visit to Belgium in June 2021.

On Thursday, Biden will go to the NATO headquarters in Evere, in the north of Brussels. In the afternoon, he and his entire escort will travel to the centre of Brussels for the meeting with the European Council.

The move from Evere to central Brussels will see the whole route cordoned off from traffic for security measures. The afternoon on Thursday will include a session with G7 leaders.

On Friday, Biden boards Air Force One again to fly to Poland.

Security measures

Air traffic in Belgium will be temporarily closed when President Biden arrives. Het Laatste Nieuws writes that two identical versions of Air Force One will land, so no one can be sure which plane the president is on.

While in Brussels, the US president will travel in a long column of roughly 50 cars that have been flown in for his visit. Biden himself will be in Cadillac One, a vehicle also known as “The Beast.”

The Beast is an armoured limousine that can withstand missiles, chemical attacks and firearms, and contains a grenade launcher. There is also an identical copy of this vehicle among Biden’s retainers, while Secret Service troops will occupy most of the column and monitor the area.

Closures across town

There will be traffic closures and bans on parking everywhere on Biden’s route. This includes NATO headquarters in Evere, the US embassy in Brussels city centre, The Hotel on Boulevard de Waterloo, as well as the European Quarter.

Further to this, Biden’s route and the whole city centre will be inspected for safety measures. Even the sewerage system in Brussels won’t be exempt from monitoring, and garbage cans and sewer covers will be momentarily sealed in some areas.

Hospitality venues near The Hotel and the US embassy were asked to close their terraces during Biden’s last Brussels visit in June. Stores in the area could stay open, but only receive customers escorted by police. These methods could apply during this visit.

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Security forces will see a boost in the form of a “gold commander,” which means that all police zones will go under one command to ensure no fragmentation in police response. It is estimated that 2,000 officers will be on duty to ensure everything goes according to plan. Security measures will include dog brigades and snipers.

Yet despite the steep uptake in security, the Iranian community in Brussels have arranged a protest to take place in front of the American Embassy on Thursday at 16:00. The protestors are against a relaxation in rules towards the Iranian regime in relation to the West's nuclear negotiations with the country due to the regime's crimes against its people.

Traffic disruptions

Traffic is expected to be disrupted due to the security perimeters in Brussels. The public is advised to use underground public transport (metro) when possible rather than driving.

Roads to and from the perimeter will be closed. The metro will continue to run but the entrances to Arts-Loi and Schuman stations will be temporarily closed.

After Brussels

President Biden will travel to Warsaw in Poland on Friday. In the Polish capital, he will have bilateral talks with Polish President Andrzej Duda on Saturday to discuss the humanitarian crisis caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the worsening situation in cities like Mariupol in Ukraine.

"The President will discuss how the United States, alongside our Allies and partners, is responding to the humanitarian and human rights crisis that Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked war on Ukraine has created," said US press secretary Jen Psaki on Sunday.

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