NATO considers sending more weapons to Ukraine
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said nations need to step up support for Ukraine.
Ariana Triggs, USA TODAY
MADRID – President Joe Biden pledged Wednesday to boost the US military presence in eastern Europe, including establishing a permanent presence in Poland, as he gathered Wednesday with other NATO leaders at a summit intended to show resolve against Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.
“In a moment when Putin has shattered peace in Europe and attacked the very, very tenets of rule-based order, the United States and our allies, we’re going to step up. We’re stepping up,” Biden said at the NATO summit in Madrid.
Biden said the U.S. would also enhance its rotational deployments in the Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
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The U.S. is also sending two additional F-35 squadrons to the UK, stationing two more destroyers in Spain and will improve defense capabilities in Germany and Italy.
Working with military allies, Biden said the U.S. would help ensure that NATO nations are “ready to meet threats from all directions, across every domain.”
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said this week the organization would put 300,000 troops on high alert, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. More than 40,000 troops are currently under NATO command.
The U.S. has deployed or extended the deployment of more than 20,000 additional forces to Europe since the start of Putin’s war against Ukraine in February, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said.
That brings the number of American service members on the continent to more 100,000, Kirby said.
- NATO expansion: NATO leaders have formally invited Sweden and Finland to join the alliance. The invitation comes just hours after Turkey dropped its objections to the Nordic nations’ membership. Final approval could still be months away because the legislative bodies of all 30 NATO countries must vote to accept their membership.
- Where’s Biden: He’s participating in closed-door sessions with other heads of state and government of NATO nations and bilateral meetings with U.S. allies.
- What to watch: Biden’s meeting with the Turkish president. The leaders spoke by phone Monday ahead of a face-to-face conversation at the NATO summit.
- What will Biden offer? Celeste Wallander, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, suggested the U.S. may sell Turkey upgraded F-16 fighter jets.
- Challenging China: Biden also held hold a joint meeting with Japan’s Fumio Kishida and South Korea’s Yoon Seok-youl at the summit site. Neither countries are NATO nations, yet they are participating in the summit for the first time.
- On the menu: Visiting leaders will have dinner with President Pedro Sánchez of Spain.
What’s about to happen
NATO nations are building out their strategic concept, a document that will determine what issues the alliance focuses on over the next decade.
Wednesday was the first full day of the summit. Leaders will meet again on Thursday.
What they are saying
- Biden said as he arrived at the NATO gathering site that it will be a “history-making summit,” where leaders will “reaffirm the unity and determination to our alliance to defend every inch NATO territory.”
- The U.S. president said the alliance’s Article Five commitment to protect NATO nations if they are attacked “is sacrosanct.”
- “We mean when we say an attack against one is an attack against all,” Biden said.
- Biden asserted that Finland’s and Sweden’s decision to move away from neutrality to join NATO will make the alliance stronger and more secure.
- President Pedro Sánchez of Spain told leaders at their first group session that entry of Sweden and Finland into NATO “is a milestone” that will make the alliance stronger.
- “The world is looking at us. Let us show them our unity and our cohesion,” he said.
- The Department of Defense said the U.S. will “permanently forward station” the V Corps headquarters and field support battalion in Poland.
- Wallander of DOD called it a “significant decision” and a recognition that the U.S. need to have a “longer-term capability to sustain our presence, our training, our activities, and our support to the countries of the eastern flank.
Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea’s decision to attend the summit for the first time is significant. It demonstrates NATO nations’ growing concerns about the rising influence of China in the Indo-Pacific.
Biden has sought to neutralize China in Russia’s war against Ukraine. But will Indo-Pacific powers aligning themselves more closely with the West and NATO’s strategic concept naming China as an area of concern change Xi Jinping’s calculation change?
How the West handles Russian aggression in Ukraine will affect how Xi approaches Taiwan, the U.S. president has stressed. On a trip to Asia last month, Biden said China is ” flirting with danger” and recommitted the U.S. to defending Taiwan, which is a democratically-governed part of China, if Xi attempts to take control by force.
Want to know more? Here’s what you missed
Biden is in Europe meeting with allies at a NATO summit. He aims to keep the military alliance united behind Ukraine and foot stomp a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
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U.S. considering sale of fighter jets to Turkey
The U.S. signaled its support on Wednesday for the sale of new F-16 fighter jets to Turkey ahead of a meeting in Madrid between Biden and the Turkish president.
“The United States supports Turkey’s modernization of its fighter fleet because that is a contribution to NATO security and therefore American security,” the Department of Defense’s Wallander said.
Turkey had been blocking Sweden and Finland’s application to join NATO but removed its opposition on the first day of the summit — hours after Biden spoke to Erdoğan by phone.
An official told reporters traveling with Biden in Madrid that the U.S. did not offer Turkey anything to drop its objections. The president did not respond to a question later in the day about the possible sale of F-16 jets.
In an interivew at the NATO summit, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., noted that there were “issues between Sweden, Finland and Turkey” that were “apparently” resolved.
“But it took the other members like the United States to be at the table to talk about other issues on Turkey’s mind to finally close the deal,” Durbin said.
Durbin said that if a deal was struck because the U.S. agreed to sell Turkey fighter jets he would support the sale.
“I think that the accession of Finland and Sweden changes the calculus of NATO protection. And Putin could not have imagined that NATO would be even stronger
He said of the potential fighter jet sale: “If that’s what it took to close the deal, then I certainly support it. I think that the accession of Finland and Sweden changes the calculus of the NATO protection, and Putin could not have imagined that NATO would be even stronger after his invasion.”