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NATO to appoint representative in Kyiv to deepen Ukraine ties: US official

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NATO to appoint representative in Kyiv to deepen Ukraine ties: US official

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) will appoint a senior representative in Ukraine’s capital to deepen ties to the war-torn country, a senior United States official has said, as world leaders gather for a NATO summit in Washington, DC.

Speaking at a summit defence industry event on Tuesday afternoon, White House adviser Jake Sullivan said the representative in Kyiv would seek to “deepen Ukraine’s institutional relationship with the alliance”.

The post will also “serve as the focal point for NATO’s engagement with senior Ukrainian officials”, Sullivan said.

The announcement comes as NATO officials and world leaders have travelled to the US capital for the organisation’s annual summit, which began on Tuesday.

Continued support for Ukraine amid Russia’s invasion of the country is at the top of the agenda, particularly amid a string of recent Russian attacks, including a deadly bombing of a children’s hospital in Kyiv.

In a social media post after his arrival in Washington, DC, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said he would be pushing for more air defence systems, financial assistance, and aircraft, including F-16s.

“We urge decisive actions from the US and Europe – actions that will strengthen our warriors,” Zelenskyy wrote on X.

“We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure that Russian terror is defeated. This is not just crucial for our country – it is essential for everyone – for every partner and all nations.”

Zelenskyy and US President Joe Biden are each scheduled to deliver speeches later on Tuesday at the Ronald Reagan Institute to mark the start of the NATO summit. The pair will also hold a meeting on Thursday afternoon, the White House said.

Aides said Biden’s opening speech will highlight what his administration sees as a key accomplishment: a stronger and more united NATO, under the US’s leadership, with more members and a resolve to meet their collective security needs.

That brings, they say, tangible results for American voters, namely a safer country, with a strong international economic position, as well as more alliances and power abroad, and less at risk of conflict with its adversaries.

This week’s NATO summit falls at a critical time for Biden, who is facing questions domestically about his health and ability to serve another term in the White House after he delivered a disastrous 2024 election debate performance last month.

The Democratic president, who is expected to face off against his Republican predecessor Donald Trump in November’s vote, has dismissed calls to drop out of the race.

Biden administration officials sought to downplay reports that Washington’s NATO allies are anxious over the president’s staying power before the arrival of the 32 NATO member countries’ leaders in Washington, DC.

US President Joe Biden
US President Joe Biden has rejected calls for him to bow out of the 2024 election race [Marco Bello/Reuters]

Speaking to reporters on Monday, White House adviser John Kirby said the administration was “not picking up any signs” that any foreign leaders were concerned.

The leaders “wouldn’t be coming … to a NATO Summit if they didn’t believe in American leadership and how important it is and if they didn’t believe that President Biden takes that responsibility extremely seriously”, Kirby said.

But as doubts swirl over Biden, the alliance has been nervously eyeing a potential return to the White House by Trump after the elections in November.

Trump has repeatedly criticised fellow NATO members who failed to meet an agreed-upon goal of spending at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defence.

European anxiety was heightened in February when Trump warned NATO allies in a campaign speech that he “would encourage” the Russians “to do whatever the hell they want” to countries that do not meet defence spending goals if he returns to the White House.

Trump and his Republican allies in the US Congress have also criticised Biden for providing an “endless flow of American treasure” to Ukraine.

During Tuesday afternoon’s NATO event in Washington, DC, Sullivan – the White House adviser – said the Biden administration was “committed” to standing with Ukraine “for the long term”.

Sullivan said NATO later this week would announce a new military command in Germany that will launch a “training, equipping and force development programme for Ukrainian troops”.

“We’ll also make announcements outlining how we plan to strengthen critical Ukrainian air defence capabilities and build Ukraine’s air power through the provision of F-16s,” he said.

The new measures, Sullivan added, aim to send a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin that he “cannot divide us, he cannot outlast us, he cannot weaken us, and Ukraine – not Russia – will prevail in this war”.

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

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