The two day meeting in Brussels of NATO's Ukraine Contact Group on Wednesday and Thursday actually provided a backdrop for more dramatic news developments relating to Ukraine. First, on the eve of the meeting, involving some 50 countries belonging to NATO and other parts of the world, the US President Joe Biden announced an additional USD1 billion military assistance.
Then, on Thursday, four European leaders, Chancellor Scholz of Germany, President Macron of France, Prime Ministers Draghi of Italy, and Ciuca of Romania, paid a visit to Kyiv in a high-profile show of support for Ukraine. The presence of the first three leaders was significant as Germany, France, and Italy have continued to engage Russian President Vladimir Putin. They have been accused of not doing enough to provide Ukraine with the scale of weaponry that could make a difference in the battlefield.
NATO's Ukraine Contact Group meeting in Brussels provided a backdrop for dramatic news developments relating to Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden announced an additional USD1 billion military assistance.
On the eve of the Brussels meeting Ukraine put out a list of what it needed.
The European leaders expressed their support for Ukraine and its candidacy to eventually join the European Union.
They went out of their way to assure Zelensky that they would not pressure Ukraine to trade territory for peace.
Biden's Additional Military and Humanitarian Aid to Zelensky
Biden spoke by phone with Ukraine President Zelensky ahead of the announcement of additional weapons and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. The US has now committed more than USD 5 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the Russian invasion. It has supplied 108 howitzers and four HIMARS truck mounted multiple launch rocket system with missiles that have a range of 40 kms.
The latest tranche of weapons include 18 more 155 mm howitzers, 36,000 shells, 18 vehicles for transporting the guns, two Coastguard systems with Harpoon missiles, additional missiles for HIMARS systems, 4 vehicles for equipment repair, thousands of secure radio sets and thousands of thermal imaging and night vision devices.
On the eve of the Brussels meeting Ukraine put out a list of what it needed. Its presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that Ukraine's army needed 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks and 1,000 drones among other heavy weapons. He later tweeted “Brussels, we are waiting for a decision.”
Is Ukraine Really Left to Fend for Itself?
At the meeting, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that there was need to redouble aid to Ukraine saying that it was “facing a pivotal moment in the battlefield” after four months of war with Russia. He said that they could not afford to lose steam. He said that while they had supplied tanks, missiles and artillery, it was clearly not enough and there was need to redouble the effort.
During the meeting, the Ukrainians complained that they had received just 10 per cent of the military assistance they had requested from the West and that this assistance was vital for Ukraine to win the war. However, the US officials pushed back noting that the speed of delivery had been exemplary and that no one weapon system would make a difference.
After the meeting, Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US, Gen Mark Milley reported that the West would focus on providing aid for Ukraine for as long as necessary. Additionally, Germany would supply Ukraine with three sets of multiple launch rocket systems M 270. Ukraine would get ten other sets from other NATO countries, Slovakia would provide Mi-17 helicopters and rocket munition. Canada, Poland and the Netherlands discussed fresh donations of artillery to Ukraine, which could add up to 300-400 more artillery systems.
There is a possibility that the US could, in addition, provide tanks and advanced air defence systems as well.
The West will Extend Support, But Ukraine Must Defend Itself
Meanwhile, after their visit to Ukraine, the European leaders expressed their support for Ukraine and its candidacy to eventually join the European Union. French President Macron promised six more Caesar truck mounted artillery guns. According to earlier reports, shortly after his re-election in April, Macron had given 12 of those guns along with thousands of rounds of ammunition. The Caesar has a high rate of fire and a range of 40 kms.
The European leaders went out of their way to assure Zelensky that they would not pressure Ukraine to trade territory for peace. As Draghi pointed out, “We want atrocities to stop, we want peace. But Ukraine must defend itself, and it will be Ukraine that chooses the peace it wants.”
The visit of the European leaders and the meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group will now feed into the forthcoming NATO summit in Madrid at the end of this month.
Future of NATO's New Applicants
While US President Biden has announced that he would attend the summit, significantly, for the first time, the Prime Ministers of Japan and South Korea will also attend the meeting. Also present will be the delegations of Finland and Sweden who have applied to join NATO. There is a possibility that Ukraine President Zelensky could also be there. Another non-NATO leader likely to attend is the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
On 14 June, representatives of Germany, Turkey, US, Britain and France met in Berlin to discuss the agenda for the coming meeting. This includes the issue of Sweden and Finland’s membership, as well as the issue of food shipments through the Black Sea. Turkey has promised to facilitate the grain shipments, but it remains adamant that the two Nordic applicants need to do more against the so-called terrorist organisations, before it would relent.
(The writer is a Distinguished Fellow, Observer Research Foundation, New Delhi. This is an opinion article and the views expressed are the author's own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)
(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)