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Focus on this week’s NATO summit

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NATO leaders will gather in Washington on Tuesday to celebrate the alliance’s 75th anniversary but also face huge uncertainty about the alliance’s future.

In recent years, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine has given NATO, founded after World War II to defend Europe from the Soviet Union, a new sense of purpose. But the alliance also faces serious threats, including from rising right-wing skeptics in countries such as Germany and France.

The potential return of Donald J. Trump, who has derided NATO and even considered withdrawing the United States from the alliance, has alarmed NATO members.

Here’s what to watch during NATO’s three-day meeting in Washington this week.

Perhaps the most important goal of the summit is to send a signal of unity and strength to Moscow.

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia is counting on NATO to blunt the force of his counteroffensive, which could allow him to conquer more of Ukraine or even turn his sights on other countries, officials said.

A central theme of the summit, therefore, was not only to demonstrate a long-term commitment to Ukraine, but also to demonstrate the staying power of NATO itself.

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said last week that the “primary purpose” of the summit was to demonstrate the value of collective European defense spending. He noted that a recent security agreement between dozens of NATO members and Ukraine would help “tell Vladimir Putin that he can’t wait longer than Ukraine, he can’t wait longer than all of Ukraine’s partners.”

Still, NATO leaders remain wary of allowing Ukraine to join the alliance, something the alliance first promised Kiev in 2008. Most members say that is not possible while Ukraine and Russia are at war.

One wild card this week is the possibility that Putin might pull a stunt to disrupt the Communist Party.

“Senior Biden administration officials are concerned that Russian President Vladimir Putin has more surprises in store for them on Ukraine to disrupt and steal the spotlight from NATO’s 75th anniversary summit in Washington,” said Frederick Kempe, president of the Atlantic Council. Written last month.

This year, U.S. and allied officials said Russian military intelligence Begins secret sabotage campaign across EuropeThey also set fire to warehouses and other locations related to the supply of materials to Ukraine.

Most of the attacks threatened to delay the delivery of supplies to Ukraine, but some were a little odd: One target was an Ikea in Lithuania.

NATO took the attack very seriously and has issued a warning and sent senior US intelligence officials to inform ambassadors of various countries.

The Kremlin has also stepped up its threats as Ukraine uses new weapons to attack military targets in Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea. After Ukraine attacked Crimea using U.S.-supplied ATACMS missiles, the Kremlin warned that “there must be consequences” for Russian deaths.

In response, US military raises alert level Bases across Europe.

A big question for NATO leaders is whether Putin is ready to escalate the war beyond Ukraine’s borders. Western intelligence agencies believe Putin is not ready. But NATO is likely to warn Putin that if he continues or escalates his covert attacks on Europe, NATO will respond.

At the top of Ukraine’s weapons wish list are two familiar requests: more air defense systems and more anti-aircraft missiles.

The Biden administration announced $2.3 billion military aid package Last week, the United States offered Ukraine about $150 million worth of ammunition, including air defense interceptors, artillery and mortar shells and anti-tank weapons, which will be drawn from the Pentagon’s inventory and shipped to Ukraine immediately.

Of the remaining funds, the Pentagon will purchase $2.2 billion worth of Patriot missiles and other air defense missiles from defense contractors and deliver them to Ukraine in the coming months. The Biden administration said last month that Plan to accelerate delivery By delaying the delivery of certain weapons to other countries, the United States could provide Ukraine with Patriot interceptor missiles.

Ukrainian President Zelensky said he urgently needs at least seven Patriot missile launchers. President Biden promised Five major Western air defense systems Coming soon to Ukraine.

Aside from manpower, the biggest need on the battlefield in Ukraine remains air defense, both on the front lines and in protecting critical infrastructure, including the national power grid.

Michael Kofman, a senior fellow in the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Russia and Eurasia Program, who recently visited the battlefield, said Ukrainian air defenses are struggling to deal with large numbers of Russian drones flying behind Ukrainian front lines.

He said Ukraine also faces a large number of Russian glide bombs that are becoming increasingly precise.

“The growing number of Russian drones, able to fly behind Ukrainian front lines, is one of the most serious problems,” Kofman said. “However, the most pressing issue is the lack of air defense systems to protect infrastructure and to address shortages in Ukraine’s power grid before winter sets in.”

Ukraine’s urgent need for air defense weapons was highlighted Monday Wave of Russian missile attacks The quake hit 20 cities and damaged a children’s hospital in Kiev.

One topic of discussion at the summit will be how many countries can send air defense weapons to protect the skies over Ukraine.

The United States is shipping more missiles for its most advanced system, patriotIt would also provide the Pentagon with a long-retired U.S. system called HAWK, for “always-on-killer,” which is still in service with several allied nations.

Mark Romanich, a retired U.S. Army air defense officer, said in an interview: “The HAWK system was developed by Raytheon in the 1950s and first deployed by the Army in 1959. The United States has never launched a HAWK missile against a hostile target, but other militaries have launched it and have been quite successful.”

Mr. Romanych commanded a HAWK unit during his service and wrote A book about weapons In 2022.

Designed to shoot down low-flying Soviet warplanes flying at twice the speed of sound, the HAWK missile could take down the much slower drones Russia is using in Ukraine, he said.

The missiles have a range of about 28 miles, according to the Missile Defense Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

In October 2022, Spain announced that it would Four HAWK transmitters available Less than a month later, the Pentagon said It supplies missiles to these launchers And will Start refurbishing more missiles Removed from stock and will ship later.

Pentagon says it will send two more HAWK missile launchers to Ukraine February 2023And more launchers and missiles In June Just last month, the Pentagon announced two more shipments of HAWK missiles.

At the same time, the US military announced a new round of large-scale purchases of the most advanced Patriot missiles, many of which have been sent to Ukraine.

Last year, before flying to Vilnius, Lithuania, for a NATO summit, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky unleashed a barrage of angry comments on social media, expressing displeasure that NATO allies were discussing inviting Ukraine to join the alliance rather than setting a timetable for joining.

The post said the lack of a timetable would encourage Russia “Continue to commit acts of terror.” At the time, White House officials complained that Zelensky seemed ungrateful, an act that was clearly immoral given that Western countries had spent billions of dollars to help him defend the country.

Diplomats now acknowledge that NATO offered Zelenskiy “empty talk” rather than a hardened statement on membership. So this time, the United States and others are pushing for a clear statement on Ukraine’s future membership.

NATO also pushed hard for Zelenskiy’s wishes before the summit. NATO allies reiterated their commitment to provide Ukraine with more weapons, improved training and security guarantees during their visit to Kiev. The message was that while NATO membership may change one day, the alliance’s top priority right now is to support Kiev.

Will this diplomatic whirlwind succeed in making Mr. Zelensky grateful? Diplomats admit they have no way of knowing. Mr. Zelensky is one of the world’s great communicators, and only he can decide what message he conveys to Washington’s allies this week.

The uncertainty facing the summit is whether Biden will still be the Democratic presidential nominee and the possibility of Donald J. Trump returning to the White House.

Trump has declared NATO “obsolete” and threatened to withdraw from the alliance, though some European officials privately say they believe he would not follow through on those threats if elected. He has long complained that NATO members do not invest enough in collective defense, a factor that has contributed to NATO’s unpopularity. Advocate for increased membership spending Last few years.

Trump also promised that if elected he would quickly negotiate peace between Russia and Ukraine, though he gave no specific plans. Such talks could force Ukraine to give up territory and its ambitions to join NATO.

but Focus of summit will be on Bidenhe will face close scrutiny for any new signs that his health or mental acuity may be declining. If Biden is no longer the Democratic nominee, other Democratic candidates are unlikely to call for major changes to NATO or U.S. support for Ukraine.

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