NATO celebrates 75th birthday, gifts Ukraine more air defence systems

Washington, July 10 (IANS) US President Joe Biden on Tuesday announced dozens of additional air defence systems for Ukraine to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, a defence alliance of 32 countries of North America and Europe, up from just 12 when it was born after the Second World War in 1949.

NATO is also expected to announce an “irreversible” path for Ukraine to join the alliance.

The three-day summit is being hosted by the US, which had hosted the first in 1949, also in Washington DC. Leaders and officials from the allied countries are meeting in groups and bilaterally to discuss the threat posed to the alliance by Russia and China chiefly, and Iran and North Korea.

“Today I’m announcing a historic donation of air defence equipment for Ukraine,” President Biden said at the opening of the NATO summit in Washington, at the same venue where the inaugural summit had been held in 1949.

“The United States, Germany, the Netherlands, Romania, and Italy will provide Ukraine with the equipment for five additional strategic air defence systems.”

He added: “Make no mistake, Russia is failing in this war. More than two years into Putin’s war of choice, his losses are staggering: more than 350,000 Russian troops dead or wounded; nearly 1 million Russians, many of them young people, have left Russia because they no longer see a future in Russia.”

The summit is being attended by leaders of the 32 allied countries and those of partner countries, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. The White House has said allies will announce their intention to provide a minimum baseline funding of 40 billion euros ($43.2 billion) over the next year. They will also ensure sustainable levels of security assistance for Ukraine to prevail. The alliance has seen unusual turmoil in recent years caused chiefly by former President Donald Trump’s unorthodox and critical views of its present and future. He threatened to leave the alliance if the member countries did not meet the mutually agreed target of spending at least 2 per cent of their country’s GDP on defence.

Biden kept his foot on the pedal and, as he reported in his remarks, 23 of the countries will have reached that goal or crossed in 2024. The remaining countries are expected to get there soon.

“It’s remarkable progress — proof that our commitment is broad and deep, that we’re ready, that we’re willing, and we’re able to deter aggression and defend every inch of NATO territory across every domain: land, air, sea, cyber, and space,” he said.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan noted in an OpEd in The New York Times that for the first time since the inception of the alliance, “that our European partners have carried more of the burden than the United States in a major conflict”. He was referring to the NATO contributions to Ukraine, which have faced questions at home in the US about how long can it be funded.

–IANS

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