- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 13, 2024

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed a deal Thursday pledging a long-term U.S. commitment to Ukraine’s security and giving the war-ravaged country a $50 billion loan backed by interest on frozen Russian assets in the West.

The accord was signed on the sidelines of the summit of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations. Mr. Biden is attending the summit in southern Italy.

His signature underscores Washington’s support for Ukraine as it tries to hold off a brutal assault from Russia that began in February 2022. The deal is an “executive agreement,” meaning a successor to Mr. Biden could withdraw from it.

Under the pact, money seized from Russian sanctions will be lent to Ukraine for military aid, humanitarian support and rebuilding its infrastructure, the White House said.

During a joint news conference to announce the security agreement, Mr. Biden said the deal sent a strong message to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the West’s resolve to support Ukraine amid fear that the broad alliance Mr. Biden helped assemble to support Kyiv has been politically weakened in recent days.

“We’re not backing down,” Mr. Biden said. “In fact, we are standing together against this illegal aggression.”

A senior administration official told reporters that the U.S. has not committed the entire $50 billion but will do so if necessary. The Biden administration expects other nations to step up and contribute to the effort. Roughly $300 billion in frozen Russian assets will be used to secure the loan, the official said.

Many of the frozen Russian assets are in Europe, and European Union leaders said the accord was a sign that reports of weakening resolve on the continent were overstated.

“It is a strong signal that we are sending to Ukraine that we will support Ukraine in its fight for freedom for as long as it takes,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told reporters. “It is also a strong signal to Putin that he cannot outlast us.”

Still, the agreement was signed by a string of Western political leaders, Mr. Biden included, whose domestic power bases are in question. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz were rocked by conservative party gains in the recent European Union parliamentary elections. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces a general election next month, and polls suggest his Conservative Party government will be soundly defeated.

Mr. Zelenskyy himself expressed skepticism. He thanked the G7 nations for the latest pledge and noted pointedly that “the question has to be for how long the unity will last.”

Perhaps the G7 leader with the most secure political standing was the hostess, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose far-right ruling party has been bolstered by the EU elections.

The socially conservative Ms. Meloni wielded her clout before the summit officially began. To Mr. Macron’s consternation, she reportedly blocked a reference to abortion rights in the G7 final communique.

“It’s not a vision that’s shared across all the political spectrum,” Mr. Macron told reporters while expressing “regret” at the omission. “I regret it, but I respect it because it was a sovereign choice of your people.”

Aid but no troops

The agreement will be similar to the bilateral agreements that Ukraine has signed with other countries, including a $4.5 billion aid package that Japan announced on Thursday. It doesn’t include any commitment to use U.S. forces to defend Ukraine. Instead, it will outline how the U.S. and its allies will work with Ukraine to push back Russian aggressors.

Mr. Biden said that includes providing weapons and ammunition, expanding intelligence sharing and training Ukrainian soldiers at U.S. bases in Europe.

“Collectively, this is a powerful set of actions, and it will create a stronger foundation for Ukraine’s success,” he said.

Mr. Zelenskyy said the pact represented “a historic day” in the war against Russian aggression.

“It benefits everyone in the world because the Russian war against Ukraine threatens global peace,” he said of the pact.

The G7 industrial democracies — Germany, Japan, France, Britain, Canada, Italy and the United States — are meeting for two days in Italy. Ukraine, China, global development and climate change are among the agenda items.

Mr. Biden and Mr. Zelenskyy met privately last week in Paris during the events marking the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landing. On that trip, Mr. Biden announced a separate $225 million weapons package for Ukraine.

The highlight of the summit’s second day is a visit from Pope Francis, the first pontiff to formally address a G7 gathering. The pope will meet with the G7 leaders and talk with some other national leaders who were invited to attend at least part of the Italian summit, including Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Mr. Zelenskyy, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ms. Meloni also invited several African leaders to the summit to highlight her government’s development and migration initiatives for the continent, including Kenyan President William Ruto and Tunisian President Kais Saied.

• David R. Sands contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

• Jeff Mordock can be reached at jmordock@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2024 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide