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Biden praises NATO's continued strength, saying it's more necessary than ever

During his speech, President Biden announced new defense provisions for Ukraine and awarded NATO's secretary-general the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom.
NATO Summit
Posted at 5:00 PM, Jul 09, 2024

At a speech at this week's NATO summit in Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden praised the alliance's long history and emphasized its continued obligation to the world.

NATO is "the single greatest, most effective defensive alliance in the history of the world," President Biden said. "It's good that we're stronger than ever, because this moment in history calls for our collective strength."

For his leadership of the alliance, President Biden awarded NATO's outgoing Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honor.

President Biden recognized Stoltenberg's leadership through "the most consequential decade for European security since World War II."

Continued commitment to Ukraine

The stakes are high at this summit, specifically for Ukraine, which is looking to get additional military and financial support.

It comes in the wake of Russia's deadly missile strike on a Ukrainian children's hospital in the capital of Kyiv that specializes in treating child victims of Russian attacks, as well as pediatric cancer. The death toll from the Monday attack has risen to at least 40.

Leaders at the NATO conference say it's possible Russia will make additional attacks to send a message while the summit is underway.

RELATED STORY | Russian missiles hit a children's hospital in the Ukrainian capital and kill at least 20 elsewhere

"We know Putin won't stop at Ukraine," President Biden said. "But make no mistake. Ukraine can and will stop Putin, especially with our full collective support."

"Today I'm announcing a historic donation of air defense equipment for Ukraine," President Biden said.

In a statement just after the President's speech, leaders from six countries announced Ukraine would receive "additional Patriot batteries donated by the United States, Germany, and Romania; Patriot components donated by the Netherlands and other partners to enable the operation of an additional Patriot battery; and an additional SAMP-T system donated by Italy."

The United States and partners said they would also provide new tactical air defense systems to Ukraine in the coming months.

Secretary-General Stoltenberg announced a $700 million missile contract to get each member country to boost weapons production, while attempting to prevent an all-out war between NATO countries and Russia.

"The world is changing. We face serious security challenges, and therefore we need to step up our cooperation to invest more. And not least, we need to work more closely with the defense industry," Stoltenberg said.

Immediate defensive production for Ukraine is expected to be a point of discussion at the summit.

Ukraine's minister for industrial production told Scripps News at the summit he's working with companies from the U.S. and other NATO countries to ramp up production of munitions in Ukraine itself to compete with Russia's continued pressure.

The Biden administration promises NATO will soon outline the steps Ukraine needs to take to become a member. But its acceptance won't happen this year.

Zelenskyy urges united action

Speaking at the Reagan Institute on Tuesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for decisive action to confront Russia right away — before the U.S. election in November.

Zelenskyy urges united action

“It’s time to step out of the shadows to make strong decisions to act and not wait for November or any other months to descend. We must be strong and uncompromising all together," Zelenskyy said.

He added that the U.S. president had to be “uncompromising in defending democracy, uncompromising against Putin and his coterie.”

Zelenskyy emphasized the power of the U.S. commitment to NATO — indirectly addressing the policies of former President Donald Trump, who has campaigned on the expectation that other NATO members will pay more into the alliance.

Trump told supporters in February that if he is reelected in November, the United States will not defend NATO allies from attacks if they are not contributing enough to defense spending.

"Most politicians have said to that 'yes, we will protect you under any circumstance.' Well, then they're never paying up. I said no, no, you have to understand. You don't pay your bills, you get no protection. It's very simple," Trump said.

“I hope that if the people of America will elect President Trump, I hope that his policy with Ukraine will not change,” Zelenskyy said on Tuesday. “I hope that the United States will never go out from NATO."

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