HIROSHIMA, Japan — President Biden began a foreshortened Asia trip on Thursday in Hiroshima, a city symbolic of the horrors of armed conflict, for a summit with his allies expected to be dominated by discussion of how to better arm Ukraine as it enters its counteroffensive against the Russian invaders.
The meeting of Group of 7 nations’ leaders that starts on Friday comes at a critical moment for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, his country and the core Western democracies now seized with an urgent mission of bringing about what Mr. Biden calls the “strategic defeat of Russia in Ukraine.”
Mr. Biden often says that Russia is already defeated. But the fear permeating the seven large democracies here is that unless the counteroffensive proves highly successful, Ukraine will settle into a bloody, frozen conflict in which the best hope would be an armistice, reminiscent of the one that brought a halt to fighting on the Korean Peninsula 70 years ago this summer.
That seemed almost impossible to imagine in 1997, when President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain invited Russia to become a full member of the group, expanding it — for nearly two decades — into the G8. Russia was “suspended” after its annexation of Crimea in 2014, and it withdrew from the group three years later.
Now, with his troops already seeking to destroy Russian weapons depots ahead of the counteroffensive, Mr. Zelensky just completed a series of rapid-fire visits to European capitals to shore up support for continued heavy spending on armaments and aid. He is expected to address the leaders in Hiroshima virtually, but there have been behind-the-scenes conversations about whether to take the risk of bringing him personally to the other side of the world to make his case.
Either way, he will have a large audience. In addition to India, the leaders of Australia, South Korea, Brazil, Indonesia and Vietnam will all be present as guests. It is part of a broader strategy by Mr. Biden and his allies to draw in nations that, to varying degrees, have been fence sitters on the war, refusing to condemn Russia too harshly, to enthusiastically enforce sanctions or to supply weapons to Ukraine.