Sat, 02 Dec 2023

EU Pledges Long-Term Ukraine Military Aid Despite Growing Dissent

Voice of America
02 Oct 2023, 05:36 GMT+10

European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell promised long-term security commitments for Ukraine during his first in-person meeting in Kyiv Sunday, with newly appointed Ukrainian Defense Minister Rustem Umerov.

"Ukraine needs more capabilities & needs them faster,' Borrell said in a statement posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. Borrell said the two discussed 'continuous EU military assistance.'

In a statement on X, Umerov thanked Borrell for 'continuous support' and called the meeting 'a starting point for great cooperation.'

He said their discussions of EU military aid focused on artillery and ammunition, air defense, electronic warfare, long-term assistance programs, trainings, and defense industry localization in Ukraine.

Separately, in Slovakia, the winner of parliamentary elections held over the weekend was poised to begin coalition talks to form a government opposing the EU's military aid for Ukraine.

Robert Fico's party slogan, "Not a single round,' for neighboring Ukraine resonated in Slovakia, a nation of 5.5 million.

'We are not changing that we are prepared to help Ukraine in a humanitarian way,' said the pro-Russia Fico, whom analysts consider to be inspired by Hungary's nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban, an opponent of the EU's commitment in arming Ukraine.

Fico said Slovakia, a NATO member, has bigger problems than the Ukraine issue, including energy prices and living costs, but added his SMER-SSD party would do everything possible to start peace talks.

Fico's party may hold coalition talks with the moderate leftist HLAS, or Voice party, which came third with nearly 15% of votes, as a partner along with the nationalist, pro-Russia Slovak National Party.

Slovakia's liberal Progresivne Slovensko (Progressive Slovakia, PS) party came second in Saturday's vote with almost 18% of votes and wants to stay the course on backing Ukraine.

Waning US support?

Resistance to aid for Ukraine is also gaining momentum among Republican lawmakers in the halls of the U.S. Congress. Congressional supporters of Ukraine say they won't give up after a bill to keep the federal government open excluded President Joe Biden's request to provide more security assistance to the war-torn nation.

Many lawmakers, however, acknowledge that winning approval for Ukraine assistance in Congress is growing more difficult as the war between Russia and Ukraine grinds on.

Voting in the House this past week pointed to potential trouble ahead. Nearly half of House Republicans voted to strip $300 million from a defense spending bill to train Ukrainian soldiers and purchase weapons. The money later was approved separately, but opponents of Ukraine support celebrated their growing numbers.

Meanwhile, Russia would consider "a legal target" any British soldiers who might be sent to Ukraine to train troops there, former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday.

His comments came after Britain's new defense secretary, Grant Shapps, suggested in an interview with a British paper Sunday that British military training of Ukrainian soldiers - currently taking place at U.K. bases - could move into western Ukraine.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak swiftly walked back Shapps' remarks of an imminent deployment of British soldiers to Ukraine.

"There are no British soldiers that will be sent to fight in the current conflict. That's not what's happening," Sunak said.

Medvedev, who is deputy secretary of Russia's Security Council, claimed Shapps was actively pushing 'towards a Third World War."

The British defense ministry said in its daily intelligence update about Ukraine that "apparently leaked" documents from Russia's finance ministry "suggest" that Russia is prepared to greatly increase its defense spending.

The proposed 2024 Russian defense ministry budget is 10.8 trillion rubles, about $110 billion, a 68% increase over 2023, according to the documents.

The British defense ministry said spending at that level through 2024 would "highly likely" be at the expense of the wider economy.

These numbers, the ministry said, suggest that Russia "is preparing for multiple further years of fighting in Ukraine."

In an address marking the first anniversary of the annexation of the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would enlist 130,000 men for compulsory military service beginning Sunday in most regions of the country, including in the annexed regions of Ukraine as part of its twice-yearly military conscription campaign.

The conscripts are at least 18 years old, while the maximum age would be extended from 27 to 30.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy Saturday hosted Ukraine's first Industry Defense Forum, aimed at developing a domestic defense industry by partnering with Western manufacturers so that Ukraine can build its own weapons.

Weapons producers from more than 30 countries attended and discussed how to partner with Ukraine to build and repair weapons in Ukraine even as the country remains under constant Russian bombardment.

In his nightly video address, Zelenskyy described the forum as "extremely successful," reflecting weapons producers' interest in "working in Ukraine and with Ukraine in the production of weapons and everything necessary for the real defense of any free nation," he said.

Zelenskyy said he hopes to turn Ukraine into a military hub.

He said that air defense and demining were his top priorities and that he also aims to boost domestic production of missiles, drones, and artillery ammunition.

Some of the executives said they have struggled to ramp up their production to meet Ukrainian demand.

Ukrainian officials also see the development of domestic defense production as a boost to the economy, which shrank by about one-third last year because of the war.

Some information for this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.

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