Biden promises ‘historic’ air defence support for Ukraine at NATO summit — Novaya Gazeta Europe
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Biden promises ‘historic’ air defence support for Ukraine at NATO summit

US President Joe Biden addresses NATO leaders in Washington DC as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg looks on, 9 July 2024. Photo: EPA-EFE / YURI GRIPAS / POOL

US President Joe Biden addresses NATO leaders in Washington DC as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg looks on, 9 July 2024. Photo: EPA-EFE / YURI GRIPAS / POOL

US President Joe Biden promised a “historic donation” of air defence systems to Ukraine on Tuesday in an impassioned speech to open this week’s NATO summit in Washington DC, in which he stressed the importance of the alliance’s continued unity in support of Kyiv.

Welcoming NATO leaders to the summit, Biden announced that the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania and Italy had agreed to send five more strategic air defence systems to Ukraine and that “dozens” of additional tactical air defence systems would follow in the coming months.

“All told, Ukraine will receive hundreds of additional interceptors over the next year, helping protect Ukrainian cities against Russian missiles and Ukrainian troops facing air attacks on the front lines,” Biden said, adding that NATO was “stronger than it’s ever been” and would ensure that Vladimir Putin’s plan to “wipe Ukraine off the map” did not prevail.

“When this senseless war began, Ukraine was a free country. Today, it is still a free country, and the war will end with Ukraine remaining a free and independent country,” Biden concluded.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has long called on NATO to supply more air defence systems to Ukraine, stressing that the country’s current air defences are insufficient to protect its cities from the hundreds of Russian missiles they are bombarded with every month.

US President Joe Biden speaking at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington DC on 9 July 2024. Photo: EPA-EFE / SHAWN THEW

US President Joe Biden speaking at the Mellon Auditorium in Washington DC on 9 July 2024. Photo: EPA-EFE / SHAWN THEW

Writing on X after Biden’s speech, Zelensky welcomed the announcement of additional air defence systems for Ukraine as a “significant step” and said they would help the country “destroy Russian drones and missiles and better protect Ukrainians from Russian air terror”.

Zelensky had earlier said that, in addition to extra air defence systems, Ukraine would use the summit to push for “enhanced security guarantees” comprising “weapons, financial aid and political support”, including F-16 fighter jets.

In a speech at Washington’s Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute later on Tuesday, Zelensky urged the US not to slow down its support for Ukraine even as the whole world was “looking to November”, when the US presidential election is due to be held.

“It’s time to step out of the shadows, to make strong decisions work, to act and not to wait for November or any other month,” Zelensky said.

Support for Ukraine is expected to be high on the agenda at the NATO summit over the coming days, with the NATO-Ukraine Council due to convene on Thursday to discuss the alliance’s next steps in its support for Kyiv.

On the eve of the summit, a number of media outlets cited anonymous diplomatic sources saying that NATO member states were likely to release a joint communiqué on Wednesday declaring that Ukraine’s path to NATO membership is “irreversible” in a move to reaffirm the organisation’s commitment to long-term ties with Ukraine.

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