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At NATO summit, allies move to counter Russia, bolster Ukraine

Published 07/10/2024, 06:02 AM
Updated 07/11/2024, 05:36 AM
© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden attends a NATO event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the alliance, in Washington, U.S., July 9, 2024. REUTERS/Leah Millis

By John Irish, Sabine Siebold and Idrees Ali

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States will start deploying longer range missiles in Germany in 2026, the two countries announced at a meeting of the NATO alliance on Tuesday, a major step aimed at countering what the allies say is a growing threat Russia poses to Europe.

The decision will send Germany the most potent U.S. weapons to be based on the European continent since the Cold War, in a clear warning to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A U.S.-German statement said the "episodic deployments" were in preparation for longer-term stationing in Europe of capabilities that would include SM-6, Tomahawk and developmental hypersonic weapons with greater range.

The move would have been banned under the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed by the U.S. and the Soviet Union in 1987 but that collapsed in 2019.

"We cannot discount the possibility of an attack against Allies’ sovereignty and territorial integrity," the allies said in a communique released on Wednesday.

More aid was headed to Ukraine as the allies bolster Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

A communique said the allies intend to provide Ukraine with at least 40 billion euros ($43.28 billion) in military aid within the next year, but stopped short of the multi-year commitment NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had sought.

The document also strengthened past NATO language on China, calling it a "decisive enabler" of Russia's war effort in Ukraine and saying Beijing continues to pose systemic challenges to Euro-Atlantic security.

Stoltenberg told reporters it was the first time the 32 allies had jointly labeled China a decisive enabler of Russia’s war and called it an important message.

He said NATO was not an organization that imposes sanctions, but added: “At the end of the day, this will be for individual allies to make decisions, but I think the message we send from NATO from this summit is very clear.”

The communique called on China to cease material and political support for Russia's war effort and expressed concern about China's space capabilities, referenced rapid expansion of its nuclear arsenal, and urged Beijing to engage in strategic risk reduction talks.

NATO, 'THE GREATEST ALLIANCE"

Biden hosted NATO partners and allies at a dinner at the White House on Wednesday to celebrate what he called "the greatest alliance the world has ever known."

Biden said in a speech on Tuesday that NATO was "stronger than it's ever been" and that Ukraine can and will stop Russian leader Putin "with our full, collective support."

On Wednesday, he said he was pleased all NATO members were pledging to expand their industrial bases and to develop plans for defense production at home.

"We cannot allow the alliance to fall behind," Biden said. "We can and will defend every inch of NATO territory and we'll do it together."

At the White House, Biden and new British Prime Minister Keir Starmer had a back-and-forth exchange and shared laughs and congratulations over England's 2-1 win over the Netherlands in the Euro 2024 soccer tournament.

Biden described the United Kingdom as the "knot" tying together the trans-Atlantic NATO alliance and said that the two countries must continue to cooperate.

He also met at the summit venue with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada and Finland's President Alexander Stubb of Finland to discuss strengthening their trilateral cooperation on economic issues and on defense industrial production.

Biden, 81, has faced questions about his fitness for office after fumbling a June 27 debate and hopes the NATO spotlight will help him stage a comeback of sorts, surrounded by allied leaders he has spent his three years in office cultivating.

However, November's U.S. presidential election could presage a sharp change in Washington's support for Ukraine and NATO. Republican candidate Donald Trump, 78, has questioned the amount of aid given to Ukraine to fight Russia's invasion and U.S. support for allies generally.

TRUMP WEIGHS IN

On Wednesday, Trump told Fox News Radio he would not pull the U.S. out of NATO but reiterated that he wanted members to pay more. "I just want them to pay their bills. We're protecting Europe. They take advantage of us very badly," he said.

Trump had pressed congressional Republicans to stall military aid for Ukraine before later reversing course.

Uncertainty about U.S. leadership has unsettled NATO allies.

"If there’s one thing that I’m concerned about with the United States, it’s the polarization of the political climate - it is, I have to admit, very toxic," Finland's Stubb told reporters.

While Biden has been seeking to rally allies and domestic support, several high-ranking European officials met a top foreign policy adviser to Trump during the summit.

© Reuters. U.S. President Joe Biden, his wife Jill Biden, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and his wife Ingrid Schulerud stand with other NATO allies and partners during a ceremony ahead of a dinner at the White House during NATO's 75th anniversary summit in Washington, U.S., July 10, 2024. REUTERS/Ken Cedeno

The communique says the alliance will continue to support Ukraine "on its irreversible path to full Euro-atlantic integration, including NATO membership". That language had been a major point of contention among the allies.

($1 = 0.9243 euros)

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