Biden, Zelensky to sign 10-year U.S.-Ukraine security deal at G-7 summit

In World

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky plan Thursday to sign a 10-year security agreement that will commit Washington to supply Kyiv with a wide range of military assistance, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said, in a bid to bolster Ukraine’s fight with Russia.

The deal aims to commit future U.S. administrations to support Ukraine, even if former president Donald Trump wins November’s election, officials said. It will be a framework for a long-term effort by the United States to help develop Ukraine’s armed forces, which have innovated on drone warfare and other cutting-edge techniques in the fight against Russia, but are also desperately outgunned and in need of modern weapons.

Officials said that they hoped the agreement would transcend political divisions within the United States, but acknowledged that Trump or any future president could withdraw from the legally binding executive agreement, because it is not a treaty and will not be ratified by Congress. Nor does it make any new commitments about Ukraine’s prospects for joining the NATO defense alliance, which remain distant.

“We want to demonstrate that the U.S. supports the people of Ukraine, that we stand with them, and that we’ll continue to help address their security needs not just tomorrow but out into the future,” Sullivan told reporters on Air Force One as the president flew to a Group of Seven leaders summit in Italy’s southern Puglia region.

Washington will strengthen Ukraine’s “credible defense and deterrence capability,” Sullivan said. “If [Russian President] Vladimir Putin thinks that he can outlast the coalition supporting Ukraine, he’s wrong.”

With Trump leading Biden in many election polls, the future of the agreement remains unclear. Trump has at times expressed skepticism of Ukraine’s continued fight, saying at one point that he would end the war between Russia and Ukraine within 24 hours, and he has pushed for Europe to take on more of the burden of supporting Kyiv. But he also eventually signaled his assent to congressional passage of aid for Ukraine this spring.

The agreement comes after months of negotiations that started in August last year, the month after a NATO summit where the Biden administration was among the most reluctant to offer Ukraine a speedy path to alliance membership. Officials instead proposed a series of bilateral security agreements as a way of creating a different form of organized, binding long-term support for Kyiv.

Not long after negotiations started, though, the billions of dollars of short-term military aid that the United States sends Ukraine got tangled in Congress, with skeptical House Republicans delaying approval of new funding until April — a seven-month period that put on hold discussions about the 10-year deal. U.S. officials felt it made little sense to talk about long-term commitments to Ukraine when they could not muster support for the immediate fight.

Biden on Thursday will join 15 other countries that have signed bilateral agreements with Ukraine, including Britain, France, Germany and Italy. An additional 16 countries have committed eventually to making similar agreements. Officials expect the nations will coordinate how they carry out their assistance pledges, potentially starting at a summit of NATO leaders in Washington next month, although not every country that has signed a deal with Kyiv is a member of that alliance.

The pact does not commit Washington to supply troops to defend Ukraine if it is attacked, unlike NATO’s all-for-one, one-for-all mutual defense promises, an administration official said, speaking like others on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive details of the agreement before they have been made public. There is also not a dollar figure attached to the support Washington will supply Ukraine.

But it commits the United States to hold high-level consultations with Kyiv within 24 hours if Ukraine is attacked again in the future, and it promises that the U.S. president will work with Congress to implement the security agreements, the official said.

The United States will also continue to train Ukraine’s military, deepen cooperation on defense industry production and share more intelligence than currently. And it will try to help build Ukraine’s long-term deterrent power across different domains — including air, sea and cyber — people familiar with the agreement said.

“It’s about moving the planning cycle from only fighting the current war to thinking in a much broader perspective about deterrence and defense,” said Eric Ciaramella, a former White House official who is now a fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“This is not the end of the story,” he said. “There will be ways to make these agreements stronger over time, including coordination with the allies.’’

Read More: Biden, Zelensky to sign 10-year U.S.-Ukraine security deal at G-7 summit

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