Biden, others vow at G-7 to back Ukraine for ‘as long as it takes’


The U.S. and other economically powerful democracies vowed to back Ukraine for “as long as it takes” Monday, promising to expand sanctions on Russia and increase sophisticated weapons deliveries amid a resurgence of missile attacks by Russian forces, including the first strikes in weeks that have hit civilian targets in Kyiv.

The promise of ongoing support came after leaders of the Group of Seven (G-7) club of wealthy nations received a briefing at their annual summit by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who told President Biden and other prominent Western leaders gathered in Germany that he needs more leverage and more military victories on the ground before participating in any peace negotiations with Russia, which controls much of the eastern border of his country.

Mr. Zelenskyy, who officials said pushed for more air defense systems to stave off Russian bombardments, addressed the gathering via video link and stressed the urgency of the moment in his country, where Russian forces have spent recent weeks violently pushing to secure control of a key area of the Ukrainian east.

The assault has featured a renewal of strikes on other areas of the country as the war has pushed deeper into its fifth month this week, and the conflict has remained at center stage in global geopolitics, dominating the ongoing G-7 summit of leaders from the U.S., Britain, France, Canada, Germany, Italy and Japan — and soon to be the central focus of a major NATO gathering in Madrid on Wednesday.

While the G-7 nations stopped short on Monday of formalizing any major policy announcements, officials from the attending nations said plans are in the works for a range of new sanctions, as well as a price cap on Russia oil and an increase on tariffs targeting several other Russian goods.

The White House said Mr. Biden is pushing for sanctions designed to “sap” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military-industrial complex and strangle its economy. The targets will include hundreds of products, individuals and entities, on top of the more than 1,000 already punished.

SEE ALSO: Russia paying a steep price for minimal gains in Ukraine battle, Pentagon officials say

Administration officials said new sanctions are specifically in the works to restrict visas for private military companies involved in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and on Russians who commit war crimes, steal Ukrainian grain or join sham governments in occupied Ukrainian towns.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg revealed Monday that this week’s Madrid summit, which kicks off Wednesday, is poised to approve a massive increase in the troops at a state of high readiness in response to Russia’s aggression and that the Western military alliance would be doubling or tripling the size of its forces stationed in the Baltic countries and other “front-line” states near the Russian border. The NATO chief said the moves were the biggest shift in NATO deployment strategy since the end of the Cold War.

Despite such measures, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that air-defense systems were Mr. Zelenskyy’s top-priority request, followed by economic support to help his government meet its financial obligations.

Ukraine’s plight was underscored Monday by a Russian missile strike on a crowded shopping center in the central city of Kremenchuk. Officials said 1,000 civilians were in the mall with at least 13 people confirmed dead and dozens wounded as of Monday evening. Another recent salvo of Russian missiles targeting the capital of Kyiv has some worried that the Kremlin is looking to expand on recent advances in the east to threaten more of the country.

The U.N. Security Council announced it will hold a special session Tuesday to discuss attacks on civilians by Russian forces since the invasion began Feb. 24, a pattern of attacks that U.S. U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield called “absolutely sickening” in a Twitter post.

Aid for Kyiv

SEE ALSO: Biden, G-7 leaders to announce a new round of punishment for Russia’s invasion

With that as a backdrop, Mr. Biden is expected to soon announce that the U.S. is purchasing NASAMS, a Norwegian-developed anti-aircraft system, to provide medium- to long-range defense for Ukraine, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. NASAMS is the same system used by the U.S. to protect the sensitive airspace around the White House and U.S. Capitol in Washington.

Additional aid will also include more ammunition for Ukrainian artillery, as well as counter-battery radars, to help counter the Russian assault in Donbas, the person said, according to The Associated Press. Mr. Biden is also announcing a $7.5 billion commitment to help Ukraine’s government meet its expenses, as part of a drawdown of the $40 billion military and economic aid package he signed into law last month.

Mr. Sullivan told reporters that Mr. Zelenskyy also briefed the G-7 leaders on how Kyiv is using the assistance received to date “to maximize Ukraine’s capacity both to resist Russian advances, and to pursue counter attacks where possible,” Mr. Sullivan said.

The Ukrainian leader was “very much focused on trying to ensure that Ukraine is in as advantageous a position on the battlefield as possible” in coming months because “he believes that a grinding conflict is not in the interest of the Ukrainian people,” Mr. Sullivan said.

A French diplomat told the AP on condition of anonymity that Mr. Zelenskyy also told the leaders he needs to be in a stronger position before engaging in peace talks with Russia.

After hearing from the Ukrainian president, the G-7 leaders said in a statement that it is up to Ukraine to decide on any future peace settlement with Russia, and pledged to support Ukraine “for as long as it takes.” However, speculation has swirled through the world’s media in recent weeks over the extent to which Western nations remain unified on how to exert pressure on Russia, and European polls show rising popular support for a negotiated cease-fire leaving at least some new Ukrainian territory in Russian hands.

Many of the behind-the-scenes meetings occurring at the G-7 summit are focused on preventing the Ukraine war’s economic fallout from fracturing the global coalition presently imposing sanctions on Russia. Concerns about the strength of the coalition have grown amid fears Moscow could spark a widening energy crisis by cutting natural gas flows to Europe.

Despite those concerns, some analysts are highlighting the momentum at this week’s summit, while also cautioning against being too optimistic.

The summit “has made more palpable progress in stopping Russia’s war machine,” according to Iulia-Sabina Joja, who heads the Frontier Europe Initiative at the Middle East Institute.

“G-7 leaders promised to cap the price of Russian oil, its main source of revenue. The world energy crisis created by Russia sent oil prices sky high, which actually increased Moscow’s revenues despite the EU sanctions on Russian oil,” Ms. Joja wrote in an analysis circulated Monday. “The challenge will be to impose an oil price cap on Russian products that includes Moscow’s main customers, China and India. But whether this G-7 summit will succeed and if this measure will have a major impact on Russia’s main source of revenue remains to be seen.”

There were signs of progress Monday toward a deal to seek a price cap on Russian oil, with a senior Biden administration official expressing confidence privately that G-7 finance ministers will resolve details of how it would work.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who is hosting the summit in the Bavarian Alps, said after meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that “we are taking tough decisions, that we are also cautious, that we will help…Ukraine as much as possible but that we also avoid that there will be a big conflict between Russia and NATO.”

Britain’s Boris Johnson said that, under the circumstances, the G-7 has to “continue to help the Ukrainians to rebuild their economy, to get their grain out, to export their grain, and, of course, we have to help them to protect themselves. And that’s what we’re going to continue to do.”

• Tom Howell Jr. contributed this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.


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