NATO declares Ukraine's path to Alliance membership 'irreversible' | International

NATO has declared Ukraine’s path to membership in the Alliance “irreversible.” In their joint statement at the Washington summit, member states sent this message of support to Kiev, another step to assure the country that it will be able to join the organization once the war is over. The allies also pledged to send Ukraine at least $40 billion in military aid next year.

The meeting of the allies had a high priority to show their support for the invaded country with concrete measures, now that the possibility of granting the country formal access to the organization has been ruled out for the time being. Immediately before they began their discussions, the United States, through its Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, had announced that the first F-16 fighters for Ukraine, donated by Denmark and the Netherlands, are already on their way and can start developing missions. in the country that was invaded this summer. The announcement was added to that of the previous evening regarding the shipping new Patriot batteries.

“Ukraine’s future lies in NATO,” the allies claim in their statement. “We will continue to support the country on its irreversible path to full Euro-Atlantic integration, including NATO membership.” And they stress that “we will be in a position to invite Ukraine to join the Alliance, when the allies agree and the necessary conditions are met.” In other words, after the war is over, when Kiev will not have to invoke Article 5, which obliges member states to come to the aid of a partner in the event of external aggression.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg had indicated that the Allies would agree to “substantial” aid to Ukraine. In addition to the 40 billion euros in aid, these measures, as noted in the statement, include the creation of a new Alliance command, the NATO Security Assistance and Training for Ukraine (NSATU). The United States had already announced that this body would be based in Germany and would be headed by a three-star general. Its mission would be to support the transformation of Ukraine’s defense and security forces to strengthen their integration and compatibility with NATO.

Similarly, the creation of a joint NATO-Ukraine center will be promoted to “identify and apply the lessons of Russia's war against Ukraine and increase Ukraine's interoperability with NATO.”

“All NATO members are committed to doing their part to maintain the strength of the Alliance,” US President Joe Biden stressed in a statement at the start of the first plenary session.

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The United States had already expected that an announcement about sending the fighters would be made during the summit. The purpose of these aircraft, equipped with a 20-millimeter cannon and capable of carrying bombs, rockets and missiles, will be to try to prevent the air strikes that Russia has launched in its latest offensive against Ukrainian troops on the border line. forehead. F-16 fighters could also be used to intercept Iranian-made Shahed drones and Russian cruise missiles.

According to a White House statement released after Blinken's announcement, the governments of Denmark and the Netherlands will donate U.S. F-16s, with support from Washington. “The transfer process of these fighter jets is already underway and Ukraine will have operational F-16s to fly this summer,” said the document, also signed by the prime ministers of the two European countries, Mette Frederiksen and Dick Schoofrespectively.

Denmark has committed to sending a total of 19 aircraft, while the Netherlands will send 24. The text adds that “Belgium and Norway have also committed to delivering more fighter jets” of this type to Ukraine. Oslo announced on Wednesday that it will donate six F-16s and begin delivering them later this year. The four allies that approved the delivery of fighter jets to Ukraine – which so far has only a few Soviet-made examples – have F-35 fighters in their armed forces, more modern than the F-16s they will donate to Kiev.

Thus culminates a process of difficult political negotiations for the transfer of dozens of these aircraftwhich took months and was developed in parallel with the training process of Ukrainian pilots who can handle these devices.

Strengthening Ukraine's air defenses has been a key objective of the allied countries since the beginning of the war, but especially as a result of the Russian offensive this spring, which allowed the country to occupy more of its territory after the United States agreed – months late – the resumption of its military aid to Kiev. Russian airstrikes on the Ukrainian electricity grid have caused serious disruptions to energy supplies.

In a speech commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Alliance's founding, US President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday a “historic donation” of air defense systems to Ukraine, including four additional Patriot batteries and components to build another, as well as dozens of other tactical air defense systems. More similar announcements of additional equipment deliveries are expected to follow during the summit. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had said last week that he aimed to double his country’s air defense capabilities, and estimated the number of Patriot batteries needed at “at least seven.”

“They will help us better protect Ukrainians”

In statements on the social network X, Zelensky expressed his gratitude to the allies who will improve the air capabilities of the Ukrainian army on Wednesday. “The F-16s will also be used to strengthen Ukraine’s air defense. I am confident that they will help us better protect Ukrainians from brutal Russian attacks, such as the one this week against the Ojmatdit Children's Hospital in Kiev. “I believe that our air capability coalition will be further strengthened by the addition of new participants… Our teams continue to work in Washington to conclude agreements that strengthen Ukraine's defensive capabilities,” the Ukrainian president added.

In Russia, Kremlin spokeswoman María Zajárova believes that sending the F-16s shows that “Washington is leading a war mafia.” Earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin had warned that if these planes were used from airfields in third countries, they would “become a legitimate target.”

The summit will hold its first plenary session on aid to the invaded country this Wednesday, before turning its attention to the Asia-Pacific with an expanded meeting that will also include representatives of the so-called “Indo-Pacific Four”: Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.

NATO also devoted part of its deliberations this Wednesday to China, which it addressed in highly critical language in its joint statement. The 32 member states accuse the People's Republic of being a “decisive factor” in Russia's war efforts in Ukraine, through its “unrestricted” relationship with the former Soviet giant and its “massive support for the Russian military industrial base” through its dual-use exports.

China “continues to pose systemic challenges to Euro-Atlantic security,” NATO added, citing “ongoing malicious cyberspace and hybrid activities, including disinformation, originating from the People's Republic.”

The allies also devoted their deliberations on Thursday to their southern neighbours. “Today we adopted an action plan for a stronger, more strategic and results-oriented approach to our southern neighbours.” They explained, among other things, that the secretary-general should appoint a special representative who will coordinate efforts for the region.

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