US readying to provide Ukraine with air defense system, artillery support
As G7 convenes, Biden expected to announce he’s sending medium- and long-range missile system NASAMS for Ukrainians to defend themselves against continued Russian bombardments
ELMAU, Germany — US President Joe Biden is set to announce that the US is providing an advanced surface-to-air missile system to Ukraine, as well as additional artillery support, according to a person familiar with the matter, in the latest assistance meant to help the country defend against Russia’s four-month invasion.
The US is purchasing NASAMS, a Norwegian-developed anti-aircraft system, to provide medium- to long-range defense, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. NASAMS is the same system used by the US to protect the sensitive airspace around the White House and US Capitol in Washington.
Additional aid includes more ammunition for Ukrainian artillery, as well as counter-battery radars, to support its efforts against the Russian assault in the Donbas, the person said.
The announcement comes as Biden is huddling with allies this week on supporting Ukraine in meetings at the Group of Seven advanced economies (G7) summit in Germany and NATO leaders’ annual gathering in Madrid.
In his daily address late Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky renewed his calls for more weapons and air defense systems to be delivered to Ukraine and for fresh sanctions against Russia by G7 nations, after a barrage of Russian missiles hit targets across Ukraine earlier in the day.
“We need a powerful air defense — modern, fully effective. Which can ensure complete protection against these missiles. We talk about this every day with our partners. There are already some agreements. And partners need to move faster if they are really partners, not observers,” he said.
“Delays in the transfer of weapons to our state, any restrictions are actually an invitation for Russia to strike again and again.”
Leaders of the G7 economic powers are set to commit themselves to the long haul in supporting Ukraine as they meet in the German Alps and confer again by video link with Zelensky.
They will begin Monday’s session of their three-day summit with a focus on Ukraine. Later, they will be joined by the leaders of five democratic emerging economies — India, Indonesia, South Africa, Senegal and Argentina — for a discussion on climate change, energy and other issues.
The war in Ukraine was already at the forefront of the G7 leaders’ minds as they opened their summit at the secluded Schloss Elmau luxury hotel on Sunday — just as Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv for the first time in weeks.
Biden said Russian President Vladimir Putin “has been counting on, from the beginning, that somehow NATO and the G7 would splinter, but we haven’t and we’re not going to.” Britain’s Boris Johnson warned the leaders not to give in to “fatigue.”
On Monday, they have the opportunity to demonstrate that unity to Zelensky and reaffirm their commitment to supporting Kyiv financially and otherwise.
Biden hopes to use his trip to Europe to proclaim the unity of the coalition pressing to punish Russia for its invasion of Ukraine as much as he is urging allies to do even more — seeking to counter doubts about its endurance as the war grinds into its fifth month.
The summit’s host, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, said last week that he wants to discuss the outlines of a “Marshall plan for Ukraine” with his G7 counterparts, referring to the US-sponsored plan that helped revive European economies after World War II.
With the war still in progress and destruction mounting by the day, it’s unlikely to be a detailed plan at this stage. Scholz has said that “rebuilding Ukraine will be a task for generations.”
The G7 already is committed to help finance Ukraine’s immediate needs. Finance ministers from the group last month agreed to provide $19.8 billion in economic aid to help Kyiv keep basic services functioning and prevent tight finances from hindering its defense against Russian forces.
A senior US administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations between the G7 leaders, said the US and Europe are aligned in their aims for a negotiated end to the conflict, even if their roles sometimes appear different.
Scholz and French President Emmanuel Macron have tried to facilitate that through active conversations with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Zelensky, while also supplying weapons to Ukraine. The US has largely cut off significant talks with Russia and aims to bolster Ukraine’s battlefield capacity as much as possible so that its eventual position at the negotiating table is stronger.
The endurance of the tough sanctions on Russia may ultimately come down to whether the G7 and other leaders can identify ways to ease energy supply issues and skyrocketing prices once winter hits, as they seek to disengage from Russian sources of fuel.
The G7 meeting is sandwiched between a European Union summit last week that agreed to give Ukraine the status of a candidate for membership — kicking off a process that is likely to take years and whose success isn’t guaranteed — and a summit of NATO leaders starting Tuesday in Madrid.
The leaders of the G7 — the US, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Canada and Japan — may hope to make some progress in bringing their counterparts from their five guest countries closer to Western views on sanctions against Russia.
Scholz also is eager to win over such countries for his idea of a “climate club” for nations that want to speed ahead when it comes to tackling the issue.