Ukraine-Russia War: Breaking News – The New York Times

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Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times

BRUSSELS – NATO defense ministers meet on Wednesday with the future of Ukraine’s grueling war of attrition in mind.

The two-day rally comes as the battle for eastern Ukraine enters a critical phase, with Russia making steady gains and controlling most of the resource-rich Donbass region. Ukraine demanded more heavy weapons to counter Moscow’s superiority in long-range artillery.

The meeting may provide a measure of the extent of the initial unity among Western allies, who quickly responded to Russia’s invasion with sanctions and massive arms shipments, frayed as their economies struggling with rising inflation and rising gas prices. Some NATO members are anxious and want to avoid a long, stalemate war. Yet a senior Pentagon official on Tuesday repeated the standard US position that the United States would not pressure Ukraine to negotiate a ceasefire, that such decisions rest with the democratically elected Ukrainian government. .

The fighting in eastern Ukraine has become a fierce artillery battle marked by sieges of major cities, the kind of conflict that favors Russia’s much larger military. Without the help of NATO member countries, Ukraine would be in a much worse situation than it is now.

Ukraine demanded increasingly sophisticated weapons and expressed frustration that the delivery of heavy weapons already promised by its Western allies had been too slow.

The war in Ukraine has presented a huge challenge to NATO and the security structure that has helped maintain peace on the continent since World War II. The conflict first laid bare the divisions within the European Union and NATO. But the anger over Mr Putin’s invasion has been a unifying force, although some fissures remain on issues such as NATO expansion.

On Wednesday, defense ministers will have a working dinner on Ukraine with the participation of Ukrainian officials and those of partners, such as the European Union, Sweden, Finland, Georgia and Moldova.

But before dinner, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III will host a separate meeting of a contact group of countries that are helping Ukraine militarily. Although outside the auspices of NATO, the group includes nearly 50 countries and will discuss Kyiv’s real-time needs with Ukrainian officials.

“People will exchange notes about their sightings, what they hear and see,” said US Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith. “They will consider what additional security assistance they can provide in the immediate, medium and long term to help Ukraine win this war. And the United States will make it clear that we will remain united with Ukraine for as long as it takes.

Asked if Ukrainian officials were right to complain that its Western allies were dragging their feet on arms supplies, Ms Smith said the allies were in contact with senior Ukrainian officials almost daily to assess their needs. , which have changed over time, and try to answer. their. “I think in light of recent events in the evolving nature of the conflict on the ground, I think the NATO allies have been quite responsive,” she said.

The NATO meeting itself will focus on preparations for its annual summit at the end of the month in Madrid. Discussions include drafts of a new “strategic concept” for the alliance to replace the one drafted in 2010; it will have very different language on Russia and will mention for the first time possible threats to the alliance from China, as well as new technologies and cyber warfare.

Ministers will also discuss Sweden and Finland’s willingness to join the alliance. Their invitations to do so have been blocked by Turkey, which has made demands of both countries on issues including Kurdish separatism, terrorism, the extradition of certain individuals to Turkish courts and restrictions on the sale of weapons.

Other allies hope to be able to invite Sweden and Finland to the alliance in Madrid, but given the weight of Turkish objections, that timing may not be possible. But officials express confidence that the Turkish hold on the invitations will eventually be lifted.

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