June 14, 2024

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Russo-Ukrainian War Updates: Missiles fired in Kiev during African leaders’ visit

Russo-Ukrainian War Updates: Missiles fired in Kiev during African leaders’ visit
Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO, at a press conference in Oslo this month.credit…Stian Lisberg-Sollum/AFP – Getty Images

The chief of the alliance said that NATO defense ministers agreed on Friday on ways to bring Ukraine closer to the military alliance, but that Kiev will not be granted full membership at a summit meeting of senior leaders next month.

NATO has been weighing whether to include Ukraine in the alliance for at least 15 years, and its potential membership looms over other goals at the alliance’s annual summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“All allies agree that Ukraine should become a member of NATO,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday at a press conference in Brussels. He quickly added: “We will not discuss an invitation at the Vilnius summit, but how we can bring Ukraine closer to NATO.”

The question of Ukraine’s membership has divided the alliance’s members, with some countries on NATO’s eastern side, closer to Russia, giving Kiev strong assurances of eventual annexation. Other countries, including the United States and Germany, have indicated that they are ready to make a long-term security commitment of weapons, training, and political support to Ukraine—enough to constitute a continuing deterrent to Russia.

But some countries have been reluctant to include Ukraine in the military alliance, in part because of concerns about endemic corruption in Kiev. It is unlikely to become immediate membership amid the ongoing war with Russia because it would draw NATO directly into the conflict.

NATO’s two-day meeting of defense ministers in Brussels concluded on Friday without the group reaching final approval of its larger plans to boost regional security. Stoltenberg said the plans were under review for the first time since the end of the Cold War, in an apparent warning to Russia after its all-out invasion of Ukraine last year.

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A Western defense official attributed the disruption to new Turkish objections in a long-running dispute with other countries over the names of sites in the Mediterranean. Mr. Stoltenberg played down the delay, expecting the plans to be approved by NATO leaders during a summit meeting next month in Lithuania.

Although offering Ukraine membership in the alliance while it is still fighting a war against Russia has never been a politically feasible possibility, member states are debating what kind of security guarantees the West could offer Ukraine without membership.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III discuss any specific security guarantees while Ukraine waits for NATO membership. He said he also focused on ensuring that Sweden – from which Turkey has been banned from the alliance – was allowed to join NATO.

“The Coalition faces historic challenges, but we meet these challenges with confidence and above all with unity,” said Mr. Austin. “Make no mistake, we will not be dragged into the war Putin chose, but we will strengthen NATO’s defense and deterrence capacity.”

Mr. Stoltenberg described how continued military assistance and political support to Ukraine – including a possible new NATO commission to give Kiev more of a platform in the alliance – would be part of the talks in Vilnius.

He said the regional security plans would put “more than 300,000 troops on high alert,” as part of the coalition’s efforts to reinvigorate its military strategy in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine. He also noted that the number of combat units “from the Baltics to the Black Sea”, which separates Russia and the southernmost NATO countries, has doubled over the past year.

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Friday’s talks focused in large part on how to help defense manufacturers meet the surge in arms demand that followed Russia’s invasion in February 2022. They also looked at how to force member states to spend 2 percent of their domestic gross domestic product on national defense — which is Spending that lasted for a long time in NATO. Although for some countries, including Germany and Luxembourg, it is still less.

But NATO countries continue to spend on military aid to Ukraine, with Germany and Britain on Friday pledging to send additional weapons. Sweden has also announced that its military will help train Ukrainian forces in missile systems, combat vehicles and – most importantly – Swedish-made Gripen fighter jets.

Last month, after more than a year of requests, the United States agreed to teach Ukrainian pilots to fly American-made F-16s, opening the door for their eventual transfer to Kiev. This freed other countries from delivering their fighter jets to Ukraine, although Mr Stoltenberg said it was not yet clear when they would be delivered.