NATO Ignores Zelenskyy’s Plea For 1% of Its Tanks, Jets
Alliance announces four new battlegroups as GOP calls for more direct aid to Ukraine.
NATO leaders agreed to boost military protection of the alliance's border with Russia, while ignoring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s plea for additional military equipment.
Zelenskyy delivered a virtual address to an emergency meeting of NATO in Brussels, where President Joe Biden and other world leaders on Thursday agreed to impose more sanctions and boost humanitarian support, one month into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But Zelenskyy said the alliance could “prevent the deaths” of civilians by sending more military equipment to Ukrainians fighting for their country.
“Ukraine asked for your planes. So that we do not lose so many people. And you have thousands of fighter jets! But we haven't been given any yet,” Zelenskyy said, according to a translated transcript of his remarks. “You have at least 20,000 tanks! Ukraine asked for a percent—one percent—of all your tanks to be given or sold to us! But we do not have a clear answer.”
Zelenskyy did not repeat his request for a no-fly zone or membership in NATO, according to a senior administration official.
NATO leaders did announce the establishment of four multinational battlegroups, to be located in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia. The alliance also announced that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg would serve another year, until Sept. 30, 2023.
“Today, NATO leaders agreed to reset our deterrence and defense for the longer-term to face a new security reality,” Stoltenberg said at a press conference, adding that more details on the alliance’s new security posture are expected to be announced at the next NATO Summit in Madrid in June, where allies will approve a new guiding strategic concept document.
NATO allies have voiced strong support for Ukraine, but have been wary of provoking Russia into a conflict directly with the alliance that could mean World War III. But Zelenskyy warned that if the alliance does not act to help Ukrainians stop Moscow now, Russian leader Vladimir Putin will only push farther into eastern Europe.
“NATO may be afraid of Russia's actions. I am sure you already understand that Russia does not intend to stop in Ukraine,” he said. “It wants to go further against the eastern members of NATO, the Baltic states, Poland….Will NATO then stop thinking about it, worrying about how Russia will react?”
Biden touted the help the United States has provided so far, saying at a press conference after the NATO meeting that his administration has approved $2 billion in military aid to Ukraine since January 2021, including anti-aircraft systems, shoulder-mounted anti-armor missiles, small arms, ammunition, and drones in an $800 million package on March 16. Countries including Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the United Kingdom have also approved the delivery of military equipment to Ukraine, according to a NATO release.
But the focus at the emergency meeting was on non-military deliverables the allies could use to punish Russia and help Ukraine. The United States announced $1 billion in humanitarian assistance for Ukraine, plus an additional $320 million to fight for democracy and human rights in the country, according to a White House fact sheet. The administration is also spending more than $11 billion over the next five years to protect global food supply lines, and announced that the United States will welcome up to 100,000 refugees fleeing Russian violence.
On Friday, Biden will fly to Poland, where he suggested he would be meeting with refugees, before adding that he’s “not supposed to say where I’m going.”
The United States also announced new sanctions in coordination with the European Union and the G7 that will target more than 300 members of the Russian legislative body and 48 state-owned defense companies.
“Putin was banking on NATO being split,” Biden said “In my early conversations with him in December and early January, it was clear to me he didn’t think we could sustain this cohesion. NATO has never, never been more united than it is today.”
Biden’s speech was quickly dismissed by Republicans as not going far enough to help Ukrainian citizens under daily Russian attacks.
”With all due respect to President Biden: Unity in NATO does not matter while Ukraine is being destroyed,” Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., tweeted, adding that the United States should be doing “so much more,” including anti-ship missiles and anti-aircraft defenses.
“Ukraine's fighters have demonstrated great courage & strength,” Rep. Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., tweeted. “As he meets with world leaders, President Biden should offer Ukraine what it truly needs to defend against Putin's unprovoked war - MiGs and more lethal power. The U.S. must lead.”