CHRIST MEGERIAN, LORN COOK and AMER MADHANI
BRUSSELS (AP) – World leaders heard on Thursday urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to increase military aid to defend his country, and the United States announced new sanctions and humanitarian aid as officials gathered at a trio of summits to discuss next steps against Russia. month. -the old invasion of his much smaller neighbor.
An emergency series of summits organized by NATO, the G7 and the European Union has expressed concern that the conflict shows no signs of ending soon and may even extend beyond Ukraine. As Europe faces its greatest crisis in recent generations, Western leaders continue to look for ways to increase pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin, avoiding steps that could lead to a wider war on the continent.
Speaking before a NATO rally in a video from Kyiv, Zelensky called for “unrestricted military assistance” as Russia “uses its entire arsenal without restrictions.” He specifically requested air and anti-ship weapons. And while Zelensky thanked Western countries for the support they have already provided, his disappointment was obvious.
He called on NATO to give Ukraine “1% of all your aircraft, 1% of all your tanks.” “We can’t just buy them,” Zelensky said. “If we have all this, it will give us, like you, 100% security.”
U.S. President Joe Biden, who is attending all three summits, said more help is coming.
“We are seeking to identify additional equipment, including air defense systems, to help Ukraine,” Biden said in a written statement after the NATO meeting.
Billions of dollars worth of military equipment has already been provided. A U.S. official, who asked for anonymity to discuss domestic discussions, said Western countries were discussing the possibility of supplying anti-ship weapons amid fears that Russia would launch air raids along the Black Sea coast.
The White House has announced that the United States will accept 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and provide an additional $ 1 billion in food, medicine, water and other supplies.
At the same time, Washington will expand sanctions against Russia, targeting members of parliament along with defense contractors. The United States will also work with other Western countries to ensure that gold reserves held by Russia’s central bank are subject to existing sanctions.
As Russia faces increasing international isolation, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has warned China against coming to the rescue.
“They should join the rest of the world and clearly condemn the brutal war against Ukraine, not support Russia,” he said after a closed-door meeting.
The possibility of Russia’s use of chemical or even nuclear weapons was a grim topic of discussion in Brussels, but leaders were preparing for such a possibility.
Biden said such a possibility is a “real threat”. In addition, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN this week that Russia could consider using its nuclear weapons if it believes there is an “existential threat to our country.”
A senior European diplomat has said Western leaders will continue quiet discussions on how to react if Russia adopts the world’s first tactical nuclear weapon.
The Russian invasion prompted European countries to reconsider their military spending, and Stoltenberg opened the NATO summit, saying the alliance must “respond to the new security reality in Europe.”
“We are going at a critical time for our security,” he said, addressing the leaders at a large roundtable. “We are united in condemning the Kremlin’s unprovoked aggression and in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Although the West was largely united in its confrontation with Russia after it invaded Ukraine, there is widespread recognition that unity will be tested as the cost of war in the world economy.
The strengthening of forces along NATO’s eastern flank will almost certainly, for at least the next 5-10 years, when Russia needs to be effectively persuaded, also put pressure on national budgets.
“We need to do more, and therefore invest more. A new sense of urgency has emerged, and I expect leaders to agree to accelerate investment in defense, ”Stoltenberg said before the summit.
The energy crisis, exacerbated by the war, will be a particularly hot topic at the European Council summit, where the leaders of Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece are hoping for an urgent, coordinated bloc response. EU officials have said they will seek help from the United States to replenish natural gas storage facilities next winter and also want the unit to jointly purchase gas.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has rejected calls to boycott Russian energy supplies, saying it would do significant damage to his country’s economy. Scholz is facing pressure from environmental activists to quickly wean Germany off Russian energy, but he says the process must be gradual.
“Doing this day by day would mean plunging our country and the whole of Europe into recession,” Scholz said on Wednesday.
Ursula von der Leyen, head of the European Union’s executive division, said before Biden’s visit that she wanted to discuss securing additional supplies of liquefied natural gas from the United States for the 27-nation bloc “over the next two winters.”
The EU imports 90% of its natural gas, which is used to generate electricity, heat homes and industry, and Russia supplies almost 40% of the EU’s gas and a quarter of its oil. The bloc is looking for ways to reduce its dependence on Russian gas by diversifying suppliers.
The United States is looking for ways to “increase” LNG supplies to Europe to help, said Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser.
Poland and other countries on NATO’s eastern flank will also seek clarity on how the United States and other European countries can help tackle their growing concerns about Russian aggression as well as the refugee crisis. In recent weeks, more than 3.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine, including more than 2 million to Poland.
On Friday, Biden is scheduled to visit Poland, where energy and refugee issues are expected to be at the center of talks with President Andrzej Duda.
Sullivan said Biden and his fellow leaders would seek to “lay out a long-term game plan” as to what forces and capabilities the eastern flank of the alliance would need.
Four new NATO battle groups, typically 1,000 to 1,500 troops, are being set up in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.
Biden arrived in Brussels with Americans who increasingly accepted the need for U.S. assistance in stopping Putin, according to a survey by the Associated Press-NORC’s Public Relations Research Center.
But even as Americans’ concerns and support for the U.S. lead in the conflict have increased in the past month, Biden’s negative rating has not changed, an AP-NORC poll found. Few are very confident that he will cope with the crisis, and most believe that he lacks toughness in relations with Russia.
Biden has promised voters that he has the experience to navigate a complex international emergency similar to the one unfolding in Europe, and his trip will be the final test of the proposal.
Madhani reported from Washington. Associated Press authors Matthew Lee, Hannah Fingerhut, Ellen Nickmeyer and Darlene Superville of Washington, Daria Litvinova of Lviv, Ukraine, and Samuel Petrekin of Brussels, contributed to this report.