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WASHINGTON – NATO allies announced Wednesday that they have begun a long-promised transfer of F-16 jets to Ukraine as leaders meet for a summit in Washington clouded by political uncertainty in the United States.
With the pomp of a three-day rally in the US capital, President Joe Biden is trying to rally the West while reassuring American voters amid intense pre-election scrutiny that he is still fit at 81, six years older than the alliance. work.
Biden kicked off events for the 32-nation alliance with a celebration Tuesday night as he pledged to create a new air defense system for Kiev and called for unity against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has launched an invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
“Make no mistake. Ukraine can — and will — stop Putin,” Biden said in a forceful speech.
The White House said on Wednesday that Denmark and the Netherlands had begun sending F-16s to Ukraine.
Last year, Biden approved a key request from Ukraine, which wants advanced Western aircraft as it seeks to gain parity in the skies with Russia.
Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken said the F-16 move “focuses Vladimir Putin’s mind on the fact that it will not survive Ukraine, it will not survive us, and if it continues, the damage that will continue to be done to Russia and its interests.” it will only deepen.”
“The fastest way to get to peace is through a strong Ukraine,” Blinken said.
But Donald Trump, who is ahead of Biden in recent polls, has considered reaching a quick peace solution by forcing Ukraine to hand over territory to Russia.
The Republican tycoon has repeatedly questioned the usefulness of NATO, which was created in 1949 as a collective defense against Moscow, which he considers an unfair burden on the United States.
On the eve of the summit, Russia fired a barrage of rockets into Ukraine, killing dozens of people, including in Kiev, where a children’s hospital was reduced to rubble.
Biden invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the summit, who expressed gratitude for the F-16s, which he said would better protect his country from such “brutal Russian attacks.”
The new plane “will bring a just and lasting peace closer and show that terror must fail everywhere and at any time,” Zelenskyy wrote on the social network.
The summit will look for ways to “counter trump” the alliance, including NATO itself taking over the coordination of arms deliveries from the United States.
Outgoing NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also sought a pledge to continue supplying arms at the same rate — about 40 billion euros ($43 billion) a year — as NATO members have been since the Russian invasion.
“I expect that regardless of the outcome of the US election, the US will remain a strong and steadfast NATO ally,” Stoltenberg said as the leaders gathered for the summit.
Biden also invited four key Pacific partners — Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand — as he seeks to strengthen NATO’s role in managing a rising China.
Ukraine wants firm guarantees that one day it will join NATO, which considers an attack on any member an attack on all.
A NATO diplomat said the talks agreed on a statement that would express support for “Ukraine’s irreversible path to full Euro-Atlantic integration, including NATO membership.”
Kyiv’s membership enjoys broad support from the Baltic and Eastern European countries, which are still suffering from decades under the Soviet yoke.
But Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz led the opposition, fearing the alliance would effectively go to war with nuclear-armed Russia as it occupies territory in Ukraine.
Zelenskyi, who has earned hero status in much of the West for his media-savvy defiance of Russia, expressed open outrage at the latest NATO summit in Lithuania at the failure to provide a clearer path to membership.
Other leaders attending the summit include Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, one of Putin’s closest partners in the West, who went to Ukraine, Russia and China on a peacekeeping mission criticized by Brussels and Washington before Washington.
Biden, Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will later welcome their counterparts to a gala dinner around Washington, which is reeling from scorching heat waves.
One of NATO’s new leaders is British Prime Minister Keir Starmer, who is visiting days after taking office with a landslide victory for his Labor Party.
He will meet both Biden and Zelensky and is expected to confirm Britain’s strong support for Ukraine.

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