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NATO summit: Biden pledges more air defense for Ukraine

Published July 9, 2024last updated July 10, 2024

US President Joe Biden kicked off the NATO summit in Washington emphasizing the "sacred obligation" of the US in supporting the alliance, while pledging more patriot air defense systems for Ukraine. More on DW.

US President Joe Biden delivers a speech opening the NATO summit in Washington
US President Joe Biden said Ukraine 'can and will' prevail in defending itself with the collective support of NATO Image: Yves Herman/REUTERS
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

NATO leaders are meeting in Washington for a summit that coincides with the alliance's 75th anniversary. In his opening remarks, US President Joe Biden said Ukraine will soon receive dozens more air defense systems.

Addressing a Washington think tank, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for quicker action against Russian President Vladimir Putin before the US election. Zelenskyy and Biden are due to meet on Thursday. Moscow has said it will closely follow the summit. 

Although Biden's opening speech did not contain any major gaffes, the NATO summit comes as the president faces growing criticism from Democrats over his bid for re-election after a poor debate performance. 

Skip next section Zelenskyy thanks NATO for air defense pledge
July 10, 2024

Zelenskyy thanks NATO for air defense pledge

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy thanked NATO for its "strong declaration" over air defense during a summit of the military alliance's leaders in Washington.

"I am grateful to our partners—the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Romania—for adopting a strong declaration in support of Ukraine’s air defense system to protect its people, cities, and critical infrastructure," Zelenskyy said in a post on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

He said that tactical air defense systems "will assist us in destroying Russian drones and missiles" and protect Ukraine, citing Russia's strike on a children's hospital in Kyiv.

Zelenskyy urged for Russia's air strikes to "be met with unity and strength, with resolute and bold decisions."

Ukraine asks NATO for air defenses against Russian attack

Skip next section Ukraine's Zelenskyy calls for allies to act against Putin before US presidential election
July 10, 2024

Ukraine's Zelenskyy calls for allies to act against Putin before US presidential election

Volodymyr Zelenskyy at a podium next to American and Ukrainian flags
Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered remarks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Washington Image: Kevin Mohatt/REUTERS

Speaking in Washington on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on political leaders in the US to be strong and uncompromising in defending Ukraine's democracy against Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Zelenskyy urged Ukraine's allies to not wait for the November presidential election in the USbefore taking stronger action against Putin. 

"It is time to step out of the shadows, to make strong decisions ... to act and not to wait for November or any other month."

Former President Donald Trump, who is set to officially become the Republican nominee on July 15 at the Republican National Convention, has previously criticized NATO members' defense spending, raising concerns in Europe about continued US support should Trump take back the White House in November. 

Zelenskyy added that the president of the United States must be "uncompromising in defending democracy, uncompromising against Putin and his coterie."

The Ukrainian president said that although he'd had "good meetings" with Trump before Russia's 2022 invasion, he admitted he "didn't know Trump very well" and is unable to predict Trump' actions should he be reelected US president. 

The Ukrainian president added that Russian airstrikes targeting Ukrainian cities on Monday killed 43 people, raising the death toll from 37. 

John Bolton: Trump will pull US out of NATO if reelected

Skip next section Biden says US support for NATO a 'sacred obligation'
July 10, 2024

Biden says US support for NATO a 'sacred obligation'

US President Joe Biden stressed the importance of transatlantic defense cooperation through NATO during a meeting of the military alliance's leaders in Washington marking the alliance's 75th anniversary. 

"An overwhelming majority of Americans understand that NATO makes us all safer," he said, calling support for the alliance a "sacred obligation."

During the opening ceremony in the Mellon Auditorium, where the North Atlantic Treaty was signed in 1949, Biden said that the world was facing a "pivotal moment" for European and transatlantic security.

The US president urged NATO allies to maintain support for Ukraine, adding that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to wipe Ukraine off the map.

"We know Putin will not stop at Ukraine," he said.

Biden went on to say that Ukraine can defeat Putin with the "full and collective support" of NATO allies.

The US president concluded his speech by awarding NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for "guiding the alliance through one of the most consequential periods in its history." The medal is the US' highest civilian honor. 

Biden is seeking reelection in November, when he is likely to face off against former President Donald Trump.

During his term in office, Trump criticized NATO, saying that the US was paying to much to the alliance relative to other members.

During his 2024 campaign he suggested that Russia could "do whatever the hell they want" to NATO members that don't meet defense spending targets.

Can Germany lead Europe in NATO?

Skip next section US and NATO allies to send Ukraine dozens of air defense systems
July 10, 2024

US and NATO allies to send Ukraine dozens of air defense systems

During a speech opening a summit of NATO leaders in the Washington on Tuesday, US President Joe Biden said that NATO allies will send Ukraine dozens of tactical air defense systems in the coming months.

"Today I'm announcing a historic donation of air defense equipment for Ukraine," Biden said. 

The deliveries would include at least four of the Patriot systems that Ukraine has requested.

The US, Germany and Romania will send Ukraine additional Patriot batteries, according to a joint agreement.

The Netherlands and others will provide Patriot components to make up one more battery.

Other allies will provide other air defense systems.

On Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stressed that Ukraine's air defense was still lacking and requested that allies send more Patriot systems.

The renewed pledge of air defense support comes after dozens of people were killed Monday after Russian missiles struck several Ukrainian cities, including a children's hospital in Kyiv. 

Russian missiles hit hospital in Kyiv, killing dozens

Skip next section Stoltenberg says Russia win in Ukraine 'greatest risk' for NATO
July 10, 2024

Stoltenberg says Russia win in Ukraine 'greatest risk' for NATO

NATO leaders group photo
NATO leaders pose for a group photo in the same auditorium where the alliance's treaty was first signed in 1949Image: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged leaders of the military alliance to maintain support for Ukraine, and emphasized that the outcome of the war will shape global security for decades.

"There are no cost-free options with an aggressive Russia as a neighbor. There are no risk-free options in a war," Stoltenberg told the opening of the NATO summit in Washington DC marking the 75th anniversary of the defense alliance

"The biggest cost and the greatest risk will be if Russia wins in Ukraine," he added. “We cannot let that happen."

Stoltenberg said that NATO was no longer given and that members of the alliance must show courage in facing future challenges.

He argued that a Russian victory in Ukraine would embolden Iran, North Korea and China.

Support for Ukraine in focus as NATO summit opens

Skip next section UK's new prime minister heads to Washington
July 9, 2024

UK's new prime minister heads to Washington

UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer and his wife Victoria board a plane at Stansted Airport in Essex, England, Tuesday July 9, 2024 as they head to Washington DC
Starmer has vowed to maintain the UK's support for UkraineImage: Stefan Rousseau/AP/picture alliance

Prime Minister Keir Starmer is headed to Washington to take part in the NATO summit, his first trip since taking the top job following last week's general election across the UK.

He is expected to reaffirm London's support for Kyiv.

"But today and tomorrow and the next day is all about standing together with our allies, discussing practically how we provide further support for Ukraine, and send a very, very clear message to Putin that we will stand against Russian aggression wherever it is in the world," he told reporters before taking off.

His Labour government has also said it is committed to sticking to the prior Conservative government's plan to raise defense spending to 2.5%, above the 2% target set by the alliance.

Skip next section How does Germany view the summit?
July 9, 2024

How does Germany view the summit?

Michaela Küfner

As he travels to Washington to attend the summit, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is aware that, being Ukraine's second largest supporter, Germany must also take on more responsibility within NATO in the future.

Scholz sees the announcement of another air defense package for Ukraine from Washington, following months of requests, as confirmation of how effective Germany leading by example is.

Scholz is accompanied by Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and Defense Minister Boris Pistorius.

The fact that his own defense minister is complaining bitterly about only receiving an extra €1.5 billion instead of the €6.5 billion budget increase he had demanded reflects badly on a chancellor who, with reference to the €100 billion in special funds, believes he has concluded his self-declared turnaround. Pistorius does not share this view.

Scholz is expected to experience a reality check when he meets two leading US senators on Wednesday.

Both Republicans and Democrats are convinced that Germany, the world's third largest economy, will have to contribute far more to military spending than the 2% of GDP that has finally been set.

DW's chief political editor, Michaela Küfner, is accompanying the German delegation at the NATO summit in Washington.

Skip next section NATO signs $700 million Stinger missile contract
July 9, 2024

NATO signs $700 million Stinger missile contract

The NATO alliance has signed a contract for member countries to produce Stinger anti-aircraft missiles worth nearly $700 million (approximately €647.5 million).

Outgoing Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made the announcement on Tuesday, as the alliance presses its members to boost weapons production capabilities.

"There is no way to provide strong defense without a strong defense industry," Stoltenberg said.

The Stinger is a portable surface-to-air defense system that can be carried and fired by troops or mounted to a vehicle and used as short-range defense against aircraft. It was among the first weapons the US shipped to Ukraine following Russia's 2022 invasion.

Skip next section Zelenskyy vows to fight for more security guarantees
July 9, 2024

Zelenskyy vows to fight for more security guarantees

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to fight for extra security guarantees for his country, as he arrived in Washington, DC for the NATO summit on Tuesday.

"The NATO summit begins today," Zelenskiy said in a video published on the Telegram messaging app. "We are fighting for additional security guarantees for Ukraine - and these are weapons and finances, political support." 

"We are doing and will always do everything to make the Russian terrorist lose," he added.

Skip next section Moscow following summit 'with greatest attention'
July 9, 2024

Moscow following summit 'with greatest attention'

Moscow has said it will follow the Washington summit "with the greatest attention," as its war in Ukraine drags on for a third year.

Speaking to journalists, Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Moscow would follow "with the greatest attention... the rhetoric at the talks and the decisions that will be taken and put on paper."

NATO "is an alliance that considers Russia an enemy, an opponent," Peskov said, adding that the alliance "has regularly declared its aim to inflict a strategic defeat on Russia on the battlefield" and "is taking part directly in the Ukrainian conflict on the side of Ukraine."

Skip next section What is expected during this year's summit?
July 9, 2024

What is expected during this year's summit?

The NATO 2024 summit is hosted by Washington DC, coinciding with the military alliance's 75 anniversary.

The 3-day meeting will focus on Russia's invasion of Ukraine as well as countering growing Chinese influence on the world stage. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy arrived in Washington on Tuesday. He is due to speak at the summit later.

Outgoing Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is addressing the alliance members on Tuesday. This will be his final summit, with former Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte taking over the reins in October.

The leaders of non-member states New Zealand, Japan and South Korea will attend the summit for the third year in a row amid increasing Chinese military presence in the Pacific.

Ahead of the meeting, Stoltenberg announced a $43 billion (€39.7 billion) aid package to Ukraine, a reduction from previous packages that is expected to decrease further the following year.

However, the NATO Security Assistance and Training for Ukraine (NSATU) program, which was approved in June, is set to cement assistance for Kyiv in the future in the case of a Trump presidency

Trump has suggested that he will be less generous to Ukraine than Biden if elected in November.

Biden, who is also due to speak on Tuesday, was expected to use the NATO summit in Washington to press his case after a television debate against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump in June left voters questioning if age was taking its toll on the president.

Doubts about Biden's health persist as US elections approach

sdi,wd,es,rmt/wmr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)