Biden unveils additional air defense aid for Ukraine at NATO summit

by Vern Evans

President Joe Biden kicked off NATO’s 75th anniversary summit Tuesday by announcing an agreement with four other countries to provide additional air defense systems for Ukraine — a priority for Kyiv as it struggles to thwart Russian missile attacks.

Speaking at Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., the site where the original members of the alliance signed the North Atlantic Treaty, Biden framed it as “a historic donation of air defense equipment for Ukraine.”

“The United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania and Italy will provide Ukraine with equipment for five additional strategic air defense systems in the coming months,” he said. “The United States and our partners intend to provide Ukraine with dozens of additional tactical air defense systems.”

The United States, Germany and Romania will donate additional Patriot batteries while the Netherlands donates Patriot components. Additionally, Italy will donate a SAMP-T system.

The five countries noted in a statement that they are working on a “further announcement this year of additional strategic air defense systems for Ukraine.”

The U.S. and various allies also “intend to provide Ukraine with dozens of tactical air defense systems, including NASAMS, HAWKs, IRIS T-SLM, IRIS T-SLS and Gepard systems,” according to the joint statement.

Biden’s announcement comes weeks after the U.S. moved Ukraine up to the front of the queue for Patriot and NASAM interceptors.

“Ukraine will receive hundreds of additional interceptors over the next year, helping protect Ukrainian cities against Russian missiles and Ukrainian troops facing their attacks on the frontlines,” he said.

The White House has said that Ukraine will receive many of these interceptors by the end of the summer. Over the next 15 months, Kyiv will take precedence over several other countries seeking to buy U.S. air defense systems. The administration has not divulged which countries will face delays in acquiring interceptors as a result of the decision, except to note that the decision will not impact Taiwan or Israel.

Biden’s announcement comes one day after a Russian missile attack on Ukraine’s largest children’s hospital, killing at least 31 people. The barrage targeted five Ukrainian cities with 40 missiles, wounding more than 150 people, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is in Washington this week for the summit.

Other NATO member countries are expected to announce additional security packages for Ukraine at the summit this week.

“Together we’ve built a global coalition to stand with Ukraine,” said Biden. “Together we’ve provided significant economic and humanitarian assistance. And together we’ve supplied Ukraine with the weapons it needs to defend itself: tanks, armored vehicles, air defense systems, long-range missiles and millions of munitions.”

“The United States and nearly two dozen allied partners have signed a bilateral security agreement with Ukraine,” he said.

Bryant Harris is the Congress reporter for Defense News. He has covered U.S. foreign policy, national security, international affairs and politics in Washington since 2014. He has also written for Foreign Policy, Al-Monitor, Al Jazeera English and IPS News.

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