Ukraine-Russia war latest: Long-awaited fighter jets to take off in Ukraine 'this summer'; Russian media's NATO coverage betrays 'deep concern' (2024)

Key points
  • Kremlin responds to 'irresponsible' suggestion made by Starmer
  • Long-awaited fighter jets to take off in Ukraine 'this summer'
  • Zelenskyy appears to admit concern over what US election means for war
  • NATO allies commit to sending air defence systems to Ukraine
  • Ivor Bennett analysis:Deep concern in Russian coverage of NATO summit
  • Nicole Johnston:Focus on 'Ukraine of East Asia' as China mimics Russian rhetoric
  • Deborah Haynes:Fears UK defence approach not enough to meet mounting threats
  • Your questions answered:Has the West been honest about Ukraine's failures?| Is Kyiv next?
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We're pausing over coverage - here's where to go for the NATO summit

We're pausing our coverage of the war in Ukraine here, but you can follow live updates on the NATO summit over on thePolitics Hub.

The summit, which comes on the 75th anniversary of the alliance, is a crucial moment for Ukraine, as the Biden administration seeks to bake in its support before the November election, which could see a second Donald Trump presidency and a dramatic shift in foreign policy.

For now, a new NATO command for Ukraine to provide security assistance and training is expected to be announced, alongside immediate military support, including air defence.

NATO's 32 members are poised to unveil "substantial" new aid and reiterate a membership pledge for Ukraine.

Alliance partners have already said they will deliver five additional Patriot and other air defence systems.

On the sidelines of the summit, Joe Biden is expected to meet Keir Starmer for their first face-to-face talks.

Before you switch over, here is a quick recap of today's key developments so far:

  • F-16 fighter jets will be flying in the skies of Ukraine this summer, said US secretary of state Antony Blinken;
  • Poland must prepare its soldiers for a "full-scale conflict", said its armed forces chief of staff;
  • NATO allies will announce a minimum baseline of €40bn (£33.8bn) in funding for Ukraine within the next year, the White House said;
  • Russia scrambled a fighter jet to escort a Norwegian patrol plane away from Russian airspace over the Barents Sea, according to the Russian defence ministry;
  • Foreign Secretary David Lammy demanded the immediate release of British nationalVladimir Kara-Murza, held in "deplorable" conditions in Russia.


Analysis: Fears UK defence approach not enough to meet mounting threats

By Deborah Haynes, security and defence editor

Initial noises by the new British government on defence have stirred fears among experts that repairing the UK's war-fighting prowess is not a burning priority despite mounting threats.

Keir Starmer used a trip to Washington for a major NATO summit this week to declare a "cast iron" commitment to increase spending on the armed forces to 2.5% of national income, from just over 2% – but without setting a clear timeframe, which immediately makes the promise look weak to allies and foes.

The government also revealed that a "Strategic Defence Review" will be launched next week – but ministers could not say when that would be concluded either other than "within the next year".

It means any certainty on the size, shape and budget of the armed forces – hollowed out by decades of cuts under previous Conservative and Labour administrations – will not materialise until next summer, even though the problems plaguing defence are well known.

At the same time, Sir Keir will be pressuring other European allies to spend more on their militaries, as NATO countries in Europe adapt to be less reliant on the United States – a shift that will become more urgent if Donald Trump is re-elected to the White House.

"It's contradictory," a defence source said of the prime minister's position.

"The government will ask NATO members to spend 2.5% but will claim it won't do that itself until fiscal rules allow. To be honest, I'm confused."

John Healey, the new defence secretary, has spent the past four years preparing for the job and is very well informed about the challenges and complexities involved in rebuilding the armed forces and also securing much better value for money from the defence budget.

It means he will surely have ideas already about what the outcome of the review will be.

He will also know that without swift, significant investment, difficult decisions will have to be made to cut programmes that currently are not funded.

Mr Healey will be overseeing the defence review – a return back to how this body of work used to be delivered when George Robertson was defence secretary in the 1990s.

By contrast, under successive Tory governments, these kind of assessments were renamed and widened into a strategic defence and security review and then an integrated review, headed by the Cabinet Office, that covered a much wider remit of foreign policy as well as security and areas such as science and technology.

Returning the running of this new review to the bowels of the Ministry of Defence will allow the armed forces and defence civil servants to have a lot more control over the narrative and the conclusions.

But at the same time, it risks being far too limited in its remit to ensure the UK is prepared for war.

A future war would be an all-of-nation effort, requiring all departments of state to be prepared to play their part – something that they have not had to consider since the Cold War years.

In a statement released as part of the defence announcements today, Mr Healey said: "Our government's first duty is to keep the country safe. That's why we will increase defence spending and launch a Strategic Defence Review to ensure we have the capabilities needed to protect the UK now and in the future.

"The review will also set out defence reforms to secure faster procurement and better value for money."


Poland must prepare army for all-out war, says chief of staff

Poland must prepare itssoldiers for a "full-scale conflict", says its armed forces chief of staff.

General Wieslaw Kukula said the country must find a balance between army training and border security.

The number of troops on the country's eastern border will increase from 6,000 to 8,000 by August, he said.

"Today, we need to prepare our forces for full-scaleconflict, not an asymmetric-type conflict," said General Kukula.

In May, Poland announced details of "East Shield", a $2.5bn programme to beef up defences along its border with Belarus and Russia.

Belarus and China held military drills near the Polish border yesterday.

The border with Belarus has also been a flashpoint since migrants started arriving there in 2021.

Belarus had opened travel agencies in the Middle East offering a new unofficial route into Europe - a move the European Union said was designed to create a crisis.

The size of the Polish armed forces stood at about 190,000 personnel at the end of last year.

Poland plans to increase this to 300,000 troops within a few years.


F-16 fighter jets will fly in Ukrainian skies this summer, says US

F-16 fighter jets will be flying in the skies of Ukraine this summer, says US secretary of state Antony Blinken.

The planes are en routeto Ukraine from Denmark and the Netherlands right now, he said at the NATO summit in Washington.

An incredibly robust package forUkraine will be unveiled over the next couple of days, added Mr Blinken.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy saidhe expected decisions on more F-16 jet deliveries will be made today.

"We are increasing thenumber of aircraft available to Ukraine," he said.

Norway has already announced at the summit that it will donate six F-16s.


'Too early' to say when Ukraine will join NATO - but path 'irreversible'

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg says it is too early to say when Ukraine will become a member of the alliance.

Speaking at the summit in Washington, he said Russia does not pose any military threat against NATO allies, being preoccupied with Ukraine.

The summit will lead to a substantial package for Ukraine, the secretary general said.

Sources have told Reuters that the latest draft of the summit's declaration says NATO will continue to support Ukraine on its "irreversible path to full Euro-Atlantic integration, including NATO membership".


Analysis: Deep concern indicated by Russian coverage of NATO summit

By Ivor Bennett,Moscow correspondent

The Russian media has generally sought to shrug off the NATO summit, playing down signs of unity within the alliance and talking up signs of division.

Much of the focus is on President Biden and the questions he faces over his suitability for office.

His pledge to defend Ukraine and defeat Russia was covered, but in the context that this is a man who is "out of touch with reality", according to the state-run tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets.

The news outlet describes the US leader as "close to senility", claiming he is trying to salvage his "failed presidential campaign".

As for Ukraine's potential path to NATO membership, coverage has emphasised the hurdles Kyiv must overcome.

Comments by Poland's President Andrzej Duda, in particular, that accession can't happen until the conflict ends, were seized upon by the TV talk show 60 Minutes. It described them as a "cold shower" for Zelenskyy.

But the fact there is all this coverage here, I think, betrays a deep concern.

The Kremlin knows President Zelenskyy will come away from this summit with more military aid. The question is how much?

According to an anonymous NATO official quoted by the Reuters news agency yesterday, Russia is suffering "very high" losses, and lacks the munitions and troops for a major offensive.

If true, more weapons to Ukraine could create problems.

On the surface, though, there is little sign of alarm. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov merely said that Moscow will "closely monitor" what comes out of the summit.


Russia scrambles fighter jet to escort Norwegian plane

Russia sent a fighter jet to escort a Norwegian patrol plane awayfrom Russian airspace over the Barents Sea, the Russian defenceministry says.

There was no violation of the air border by the Norwegianpatrol plane, the ministry said.

Russia has reported similar incidents before when its planeshave confronted military aircraft from NATO countries.

Interfax reported this morning that Russian jet fighters also conducted drills over the sea and the Kola Peninsula.

It is unclear exactly when each of these incidents occurred.


NATO to pledge £33bn minimum spend on Ukraine

NATO allies will announce at its summit today a minimum baseline of €40bn (£33.8bn) in funding for Ukraine within the next year, the White House says.

A senior civilian NATO representative will be stationed in Kyiv as part of its bridge to membership, it added.

Meanwhile, Norway has said it will donate six F-16fighter jets to Ukraine, daily newspaper Verdens Gang reported, citing the Norwegian prime minister at the summit.

Leaders from NATO's 32 member states are meeting in Washington until tomorrow to mark the 75th anniversary of the alliance, with support for Ukraine at the top of the agenda.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy has been invited to attend and discuss further support.


Analysis: NATO's focus also on 'Ukraine of East Asia' as China mimics Russian rhetoric

By Nicole Johnston, Asia correspondent in Beijing

NATO will appear focused on the Russia-Ukraine war this week, but there is another potential theatre of conflict in its sight - the Indo-Pacific.

NATO leaders understand that stability in the Indo-Pacific is essential to security in Europe and beyond: A war here would ripple across the world.

For that reason, representatives from Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand (called the IP4) are also at the NATO summit.

Secretary-general of the alliance Jens Stoltenberg wrote inForeign Affairsthis week that NATO had entered an era of "enduring competition with China".

The Indo-Pacific is being carved up by alliances and partnerships.

There is the AUKUS nuclear submarine deal between Australia, the UK and the US to counter China's military expansion.

The "Quad" is a security forum between India, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

This year the US held military training exercises with Japan and South Korea.

China's Communist Party feels hemmed in by these blocs. These alliances are taking shape in a region China regards as its own backyard. US influence here is not welcome.

The naval ships of Western countries are sailing through the East China Sea and South China Sea, off the coast of Taiwan and across the Pacific. China claims most of the South China Sea as its own.

The Chinese military is operating on the sea and in the skies close to forces from the US and Australia. There have been close calls. The risk of miscalculation is high.

China is alarmed by the strengthening ties between the IP4 and NATO.

On Monday, Lin Jian, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, accused NATO of "breaching its boundary, expanding its mandate, reaching beyond its defence zone and stoking confrontation".

China's argument has overtones of the rhetoric used by Russia in its justification for launching a war on Ukraine.

Russia blamed NATO's eastward expansion. China compares US alliances in this region as being akin to a "NATO" in Asia.

China is also entangled in the Russia-Ukraine war. Officially it is neutral and calls for peace. But its ongoing trade with Russia allows President Vladimir Putin to continue the war.

The Chinese military has started 11 days of joint drills with Belarus close to the Polish and Ukrainian border, only a fortnight after the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, was in Beijing.

The big question here is what happens in Taiwan. Japan has said the "Ukraine of today may be East Asia of tomorrow".

China is adamant Taiwan will unite with the mainland eventually.

What's unclear is how the myriad of US-led alliances in the Indo-Pacific would respond.


Lammy demands British national's release from Russian prison after hospital transfer

Foreign Secretary David Lammy has demanded the immediate release of a British national being held in "deplorable" conditions in Russia.

He branded the sentencing of opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in prison "absurd".

Mr Kara-Murza, 42, was convicted of treason last year over public remarks critical of the Kremlin.

News broke last week that he was being transferred to a prison hospital and his lawyers had been unable to visit him there since Thursday.

"I am extremely concerned that Vladimir's lawyers are being denied access to him in prison hospital, and that the Russian authorities continue to refuse him consular assistance from the British Embassy," said Mr Lammy.

"Vladimir is being held in deplorable conditions in prison for having the courage to tell the truth about the war in Ukraine.

"His absurd 25-year sentence shows the Kremlin's deep fear that more Russians will know the reality of Putin's illegal war – and is further evidence of the targeted repression of the opposition."

Mr Kara-Murza has rejected the charges against him and likened the proceedings to the show trials under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin.

Ukraine-Russia war latest: Long-awaited fighter jets to take off in Ukraine 'this summer'; Russian media's NATO coverage betrays 'deep concern' (2024)
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