Biden, NATO members poised to unveil new Ukraine aid at summit

Stoltenberg said the package would involve a new NATO command for Ukraine to provide security assistance and training, and a long-term pledge to continue and sustain support for Kyiv.
Last Updated : 10 July 2024, 14:10 IST

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Washington: US President Joe Biden and leaders of other NATO member states are poised to unveil new aid for war-ravaged Ukraine at a summit in Washington on Wednesday, after the US leader vowed to defend Kyiv against Russia's invasion.

Biden, 81, who has faced questions about his fitness for office after fumbling a June 27 debate, hopes the international event, surrounded by allied leaders he has spent his three years in office cultivating, will help him stage a comeback of sorts ahead of his November 5 reelection bid.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters on Wednesday morning that NATO allies were expected to agree a "substantial" package for Ukraine and would expand other partnerships particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

Stoltenberg said the package would involve a new NATO command for Ukraine to provide security assistance and training, and a long-term pledge to continue and sustain support for Kyiv.

He said there would be new announcements of immediate military support, including air defense and moves to ensure full interoperability between Ukrainian forces and NATO forces. He also said he expected allies to reiterate a commitment that Ukraine will become a member of NATO.

In a forceful speech on Tuesday, Biden said the 32-member collective security alliance was "stronger than it's ever been".

The standoff with Russia and its President Vladimir Putin over Ukraine, which Moscow invaded in 2022, heads their agenda. But the summit also gives leaders a chance to address other vexing security issues, including the Israel-Gaza war and deepening bonds between Russia, Iran, China and North Korea.

November's US elections could presage a sharp change in Washington's support for Ukraine and NATO. Republican candidate Donald Trump, 78, has questioned the amount of aid given to Ukraine in its battle against Russia's invasion, as well as US support for allies generally.

Zelenskyy on Capitol Hill

Hoping to change the course of the grinding conflict, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wants NATO to send more weapons and money and offer security guarantees.

On Wednesday, Zelenskyy is expected to meet with leaders of the US Senate and House of Representatives and some of the committees involved in defense, spending, diplomacy and national security who will vote on future aid for his country. He is expected to thank them for $175 billion already approved since Russia invaded in February 2022.

Zelenskyy is attending the NATO summit as a guest but Ukraine ultimately wants to join the alliance to ward off further future attacks by Russia.

That won't happen any time soon. Candidates have to be approved by all members, some of which are wary of provoking a direct conflict with Russia.

Reuters reported last month that two Trump advisers had presented Zelenskyy with a plan to end Russia's war in Ukraine - if Trump wins the election - that involves telling Kyiv it will only get more US weapons if it enters peace talks.

Any such talks appear a long way off. In an impassioned speech in Washington on Tuesday evening, Zelenskyy said the losses from the war were "difficult" and seeing dead children "you want to kill Putin at this moment."

In Congress, dozens of Trump's closest allies have voted repeatedly against assisting Zelenskyy's government, although Democrats and more internationally focused Republicans have worked together to approve the existing aid levels.

European officials meet Trump advisor

As Biden tried to rally allies and domestic support, several high-ranking European officials met with a top foreign policy adviser to Trump during the summit.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Biden is expected to meet new British Prime Minister Keir Starmer for their first face-to-face talks since Starmer's Labour Party won a landslide election victory that ended 14 years of Conservative rule. The countries are key trans-Atlantic allies.

Biden will also host a dinner for NATO heads of state and government, an event that would not normally draw attention but has come into focus given concerns over whether Biden can handle the demands of the presidency for another four years.

A senior NATO official said this week that Russia lacks the munitions and troops to start a major offensive in Ukraine, but that it could sustain its war economy for three to four more years. Ukraine also has not yet amassed the munitions and personnel it needs to mount its own large-scale offensive operations, the official said.

Some members want the alliance to make clear that Ukraine is moving toward NATO "irreversibly" and are keen for language in a summit statement beyond the alliance's pledge last year that "Ukraine's future is in NATO".

Already, NATO members have announced the delivery of five additional Patriot and other strategic air defense systems to help Ukraine. Still more aid announcements were expected at the summit, which marks the alliance's 75th anniversary.

Published 10 July 2024, 14:10 IST

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