U.S. Defense Secretary Urges Allies to Increase Military Aid to Ukraine

BRUSSELS — Amid increasingly urgent calls by Ukraine for heavy weapons to fend off Russian’s invasion, President Biden on Wednesday announced an additional $1 billion in weapons and aid for the country, and the United States and its allies sought to present a united front against the Kremlin.

The war in Ukraine has radically altered the strategic calculus in Europe and challenged the security structure that has helped keep the peace on the continent since World War II. But after outrage over President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion initially unified the alliance as seldom before, some fissures are emerging over the end game of an increasingly intractable conflict.

The aid package to Ukraine, detailed by Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III, includes more long-range artillery, anti-ship missile launchers, more ammunition for howitzers and for a sophisticated American rocket system on which Ukrainians are currently being trained. Overall, the United States has now committed about $5.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24.

Mr. Zelensky and his aides have recently intensified public pressure on the West to supply more sophisticated weapons, casting Ukraine as a plucky defender of the international liberal democratic order and emphasizing that only arms can halt a Russian advance in the east of the country.

In his regular end-of-day speech, Mr. Zelensky said he had an “important conversation” with President Biden, and he described the latest aid package as “especially important for our defense in Donbas.” He added that he and President Biden discussed “the tactical situation on the battlefield.”

Mr. Austin said that Germany would also offer Ukraine three long-range, multiple-launch artillery rocket systems with ammunition. Slovakia is promising helicopters and ammunition, and Canada, Poland and the Netherlands have pledged more artillery.

Even as Western allies expressed support for Ukraine, there were signs that the ally’s unity could be fraying as Europe grapples with the economic fallout from the war, including rising inflation and gas prices.

The United States has said it will not pressure Kyiv into negotiations, but President Emmanuel Macron of France told a news conference Wednesday that the conflict would eventually have to end with talks.

“At some point, when we will have done our maximum to help Ukraine resist — when, I hope, it will have won and the firing has ceased — we will have to negotiate,” Mr. Macron said.

The leaders of the European Union’s largest countries — Germany, France and Italy — have all expressed the desire for a more rapid conclusion of the war through peace talks with Russia, raising hackles in Ukraine.

On Thursday, the leaders of those nations — Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, Mr. Macron and Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy — are expected to pay their first visit to Mr. Zelensky in Ukraine since the war began. The visit is intended to be a show of solidarity, but it remains unclear whether they will have much more to offer than they have already pledged.

Western officials and arms experts caution that flooding the battlefield with advanced weapons is far more difficult and time-consuming than it sounds, facing obstacles in manufacturing, delivery, training, compatibility — and in avoiding depletion of Western arsenals.

On Thursday, NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels are expected to turn their sights toward the alliance’s annual summit in Madrid this month, when members will unveil the first new strategic concept since 2010.

In the previous plan, NATO described Russia as a potential strategic partner, but now the alliance will regear to again take Russia as a strategic adversary. The meeting is also expected to address potential threats to the trans-Atlantic alliance by China.

The ministers are also discussing how to satisfy Turkey, which has put a hold on the membership applications of Sweden and Finland over larger concerns about Kurdish separatism and terrorism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.