Biden says Russia 'will not prevail' as NATO boosts Ukraine air defenses

Biden says Russia 'will not prevail' as NATO boosts Ukraine air defenses

Biden says Russia will not prevail as NATO boosts Ukraine air defenses

: Heads of state including U.S. President (C) Joe Biden Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (R) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (4th R) arrive for a group photo during a NATO 75th anniversary celebratory event at the Andrew Mellon Auditorium on July 9, 2024 in Washington, DC.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Russia seeks "nothing less" than to "wipe Ukraine off the map," but he firmly insisted that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not prevail on Tuesday as he announced a major package of air defenses for Ukraine.

Kicking off three days of events for the 32-nation alliance with a celebration Tuesday evening, Biden announced a new air defense system for Kiev and urged unity against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who launched the Ukraine invasion in 2022.

"The war will end with Ukraine remaining a free and independent country. Russia will not prevail," Biden said at a ceremony in the room where NATO's founding treaty was signed in 1949.

"This is a pivotal moment for Europe, for the transatlantic community, and, I might add, for the world," he said.

"Make no mistake. Ukraine can — and will — stop Putin," Biden said forcefully to applause.

The US pledge comes on top of two new Patriot systems already being given by Germany and Romania, and one the Netherlands has said it is putting together with parts from other allies.

The air defenses "will help to protect Ukrainian cities, civilians, and soldiers," Biden said in a joint statement with other leaders, adding that they would look to send dozens more shorter range systems in the coming months.

Ukraine has for months been clamoring for seven additional Patriot systems to help protect against devastating Russian strikes two and a half years into the invasion.

On the eve of the summit, Russia fired a barrage of missiles on Ukraine, killing dozens, including in Kiev where a children's hospital was reduced to debris.

Biden has invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the summit as well as the leaders of four key Pacific partners — Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand — as he seeks to increase NATO's role in managing a rising China.

But the U.S. president himself is facing a tough election challenge from Donald Trump, who has loudly questioned the utility of NATO and mused on forcing a peace deal in which Ukraine would surrender land to Russia.

  'Greatest risk' 

Zelensky in Washington thanked Ukraine's backers for the promise of new air defenses — and urged the United States and others to go further to help defeat Russia.

NATO's outgoing secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, acknowledged the question marks, after Trump's allies in the U.S. Congress forced a delay of months in approving new weapons for Ukraine.

"Ukraine has shown remarkable courage and NATO allies have provided unprecedented support. But let's be honest — not even our support for Ukraine has been a given," Stoltenberg said.

"Remember — the biggest cost and the greatest risk will be if Russia wins in Ukraine. We cannot let that happen."

Other leaders attending the summit include Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of Putin's closest partners in the West, who ahead of Washington went to Ukraine, Russia and China on a self-described peace mission criticized by Brussels and Washington.

Another Asian partner of the U.S., Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, met Putin on the eve of the NATO summit and is not part of the Washington talks.

Leaders on Wednesday will formally convene the alliance's North Atlantic Council inside downtown Washington's convention center.

Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will later welcome their counterparts for gala dinners around the Washington area, which is in the throes of a searing heat wave.

One new NATO leader is British Prime Minister Keir Starmer, who is visiting days after taking office in a landslide victory by his Labour Party.

He will meet both Biden and Zelensky and is expected to confirm Britain's strong support for Ukraine.

The Kremlin said it was following the summit "with the greatest attention... the rhetoric at the talks and the decisions that will be taken and put on paper."

The promise of more weaponry is set to be the biggest win the Ukrainian leader will get as his troops struggle to hold ground.

  Reassurances for Ukraine  

Ukraine has been seeking firm assurances that it will one day join NATO, which considers an attack on any member an attack on all.

Ukraine's membership enjoys wide backing from Baltic and Eastern European nations still haunted by decades under the Soviet yoke.

But Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have led opposition, concerned that the alliance would effectively be entering war with nuclear-armed Russia as it occupies swathes of Ukraine.

Zelensky, who has achieved hero status in much of the West for his media-savvy defiance of Russia, voiced open annoyance at the last NATO summit in Lithuania at the failure to provide a clearer path to membership.

In Washington, the U.S. is seeking to play down his expectations, speaking of creating a "bridge" to membership but making clear quick entry is not on the cards.

Estonian Defense Minister Hanno Pevkur said negotiations were ongoing on the final language and that he was hopeful for a word such as "irreversible" to describe Ukraine's path to NATO.

Putin has repeatedly accused the West of antagonizing Russia by entertaining NATO membership for Ukraine, whose separate identity he has rejected.

Ukraine has also been clamoring for greater air defenses to protect cities being barraged by Russia.

Biden promised Monday an additional Patriot system, on top of two new systems being given by Germany and Romania and one which the Netherlands has said it is putting together with parts from other allies.