NATO to boost reaction force, Ukraine support

Associated Press
A general view of a G7 leaders meeting with outreach guests as part of the working session of the G7 leaders summit, Kruen, Germany

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg says the military alliance wants to increase the number of its rapid reaction forces from the current 40,000 troops to 300,000.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday ahead of a NATO summit later this week in Madrid, Stoltenberg said Meanwhile, 

Stoltenberg said NATO members will agree on a “strengthened assistance package” including secure communication and anti-drone systems.

Over the long term, Stoltenberg said allies aim to help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era armaments to modern NATO equipment.

Key developments

G-7 leaders say they're commited to assisting Ukraine, and the US plans to send an anti-air system.

The Group of Seven leaders have pledged to continue supporting Ukraine “for as long as it takes.”

In a joint statement on Monday after a video link session with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the leaders underlined their “unwavering commitment to support the government and people of Ukraine in their courageous defence of their country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

They said that “it is up to Ukraine to decide on a future peace settlement, free from external pressure or influence.”

The leaders of the world’s leading democratic industrial powers pledged that “we will continue to provide financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support and stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes.”

They would continue exploring “new ways to isolate Russia from participating in the global market” and are “determined to reduce Russia’s revenues, including from gold.”

The leaders added that Russia must abide by international commitments including bans on the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, and voiced “serious concern” about Russia’s announcement that it would send a nuclear-capable missile system to close ally Belarus.

A top French diplomat says Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told the Group of Seven leaders that this isn't the time for negotiations with Russia because he needs to be in stronger position first.

The diplomat said Zelenskiy, who spoke by video link to a G-7 session, told the group that “he will negotiate when he will be in a position to do so.” He was speaking on condition of anonymity in line with the French presidency’s customary practices.

“His goal is to end the war as quickly as possible and to get out of it in the best possible position, so that he can negotiate from a position of strength,” the diplomat said, adding that Zelenskiy told the G-7 he needs economic, financial and military support.

French President Emmanuel Macron said that “nothing regarding Ukraine will be decided without Ukraine” and it’s up to Zelenskiy to decide when he wants to engage in negotiations with Russia, according to the diplomat.

Meanwhile, the German government insists its plans to tap new sources of natural gas don’t undermine the country’s ambitious climate goals.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is promoting the idea of a ‘climate club’ at a meeting Monday with fellow leaders from the Group of Seven major economies and key developing nations such as Indonesia, South Africa and Argentina.

Speaking ahead of the talks, Scholz told German public broadcaster ZDF that the club would bring together those countries “that are willing to become CO2-neutral very quickly by mid-century.”

The idea, which is still being fleshed out, would see members set common standards for curbing greenhouse gas emissions and agree not to impose climate-related tariffs on each others’ imports.

Scholz described his own country’s target of reducing emissions to net zero by 2045 - the earliest of any major industrial nation - as “very ambitious.” But his government has been criticized by climate campaigners for seeking new suppliers of natural gas to replace the shortfall from Russia.

Government spokesman Wolfgang Buechner said new energy agreements being forged with Senegal, which including developing a natural gas field, were “in accordance” with Germany’s emissions targets and the 2015 Paris climate accord. But Buechner declined to comment on reports that Germany was pressing other nations to soften existing agreements on reducing fossil fuel investments, saying talks at the G-7 summit in the Alpine resort of Elmau were ongoing.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has welcomed the leaders of five top emerging democratic economies and of major international organizations to the Group of Seven summit.

G-7 leaders plan to discuss a range of key issues with their guests, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, and Presidents Macky Sall of Senegal, Joko Widodo of Indonesia, Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, and Alberto Fernández of Argentina. Those issues include climate change, energy, health and the COVID-19 pandemic, food security and gender equality.

They’re being joined Monday by the heads of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the World Health Organization and others.

Indonesia this year holds the presidency of the larger Group of 20 of major economies, which also includes Russia and China. That group faces a potentially awkward summit in Bali in November, in light of the possibility that Russian President Vladimir Putin could attend.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto says that he and the Swedish prime minister will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the NATO secretary-general on the sidelines of this week’s NATO summit in the Spanish capital.

Finland and Sweden have applied to join the 30-member alliance in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But NATO member Turkey has so far blocked their applications, citing what it considers to be the two countries’ soft approach on organizations Ankara considers as terrorist, such as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

Turkey is demanding that Sweden and Finland grant extradition requests for individuals it claims are PKK members or are linked to a failed 2016 coup. Ankara also wants assurances that restrictions on arms sales that both countries imposed over its 2019 military incursion into northern Syria will be lifted.

Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told broadcaster Haberturk TV that “our attendance at this summit does not mean we will take a step back from our position.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has joined the Group of Seven leaders by video link at their summit in the Bavarian Alps.

Zelenskiy could be seen on a television screen next to the round table where the leaders sat Monday at the secluded Schloss Elmau luxury hotel. His address wasn’t being shown to the public.

The G-7 leaders are committing themselves to supporting Ukraine for the long haul at their summit, with both immediate help and long-term rebuilding on the agenda.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says ahead of a session with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that the G-7 countries’ policies on Ukraine are “very much aligned,” and that they see the need to be both tough and cautions.

Scholz said after meeting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday that “we are taking tough decisions, that we are also cautious, that we will help ... Ukraine as much as possible but that we also avoid that there will be a big conflict between Russia and NATO.”

He added that “this is what is of essence -- to be tough and thinking about the necessities of the time we are living in.”

The G-7 leaders are to confer by video link Monday morning with Zelenskiy.

The Group of Seven economic powers are set to announce an agreement to pursue a price cap on Russian oil, aiming to curb Moscow’s energy revenues, a US official said Monday. The move is part of a joint effort of support for Ukraine that includes raising tariffs on Russian goods and imposing new sanctions on hundreds of Russian officials and entities supporting the four month long war.

Leaders were finalizing the deal to seek a price cap during their three-day summit in the German Alps. The details of how a price cap would work, as well as its impact on the Russian economy, were to be resolved by the G-7 finance ministers in the coming weeks and months. The largest democratic economies will also commit to raising tariffs on Russian imports to their countries, with the US announcing new tariffs on 570 categories of goods, as well as use of sanctions to target Russia’s defense supply chains that support its effort to rearm during the war.

The senior administration official spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview the announcements from the G-7 leaders’ summit, where they are set to confer by video link with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says the West has no intention to “torpedo” the Group of 20 — the group of major economies that also includes Russia.

This year’s G-20 summit is due to take place in Indonesia in November. There are questions over whether Western leaders will sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Scholz, who is hosting this week’s summit of the smaller Group of Seven industrial powers, on Monday also is hosting leaders from five major emerging democratic economies — India, Indonesia, Senegal, South Africa and Argentina.

So far, they don’t all see eye-to-eye with the G-7 nations on the war in Ukraine or sanctions. Scholz told Germany’s ZDF television that “it’s all the more important that we discuss (the matter) with each other.”

Scholz told Germany’s ZDF television: “We must not walk into the trap Putin sets of asserting that the world is divided into the global West — the G-7 and its friends in the north — and all the rest. That’s not true. There are democracies all over the world and they have very similar perspectives.”

Scholz didn’t give an explicit commitment to turn up to the G-20 summit regardless of whether Putin attends, but stressed the group’s importance.

He said: “There is a common conviction … that we don’t want to torpedo the G-20.”

President Joe Biden is set to announce that the US is providing an advanced surface-to-air missile system to Ukraine, as well as additional artillery support, according to a person familiar with the matter, in the latest assistance meant to help the country defend against Russia’s four-month invasion.

The US is purchasing NASAMS, a Norwegian-developed anti-aircraft system, to provide medium- to long-range defense, according to the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. NASAMS is the same system used by the US to protect the sensitive airspace around the White House and US Capitol in Washington.

Additional aid includes more ammunition for Ukrainian artillery, as well as counter-battery radars, to support its efforts against the Russian assault in the Donbas, the person said.

The announcement comes as Biden is huddling with allies this week on supporting Ukraine in meetings at the Group of Seven advanced economies summit in Germany and NATO leaders’ annual gathering in Madrid.

One year ago, Joe Biden strode into his first Group of Seven summit as president and confidently told the closest US allies that “America is Back.”

Now, there are worries that America is backsliding. As Biden meets this week with the heads of G-7 leading democratic economies in the Bavarian Alps, he brings with him the baggage of domestic turmoil.

The US is grappling with political unrest, shocking mass shootings and the US Supreme Court’s decision to end constitutional protections for abortion.

Biden says other world leaders at the summit haven’t been asking him about the abortion ruling. But the domestic unrest is no doubt troubling to his European allies.

Contributions by AP reporters: Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Zeke Miller in Elmau, Germany.

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