Hungary sees ‘chance for peace’ in Ukraine if Trump returns, foreign minister says

WASHINGTON: NATO allies announced on Wednesday that they had begun the long-promised transfer of F-16 jets to Ukraine, as leaders meet for a summit in Washington overshadowed by political uncertainty in the United States.
With the pomp of the three-day meeting in the US capital, President Joe Biden aims to mobilize the West and also reassure American voters amid intense pre-election scrutiny if at 81 – six years older than the alliance – he remains fit for the Job.
Kicking off events for the 32-nation alliance with a celebration Tuesday night, Biden committed to a new air defense system for Kiev and called for unity against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who launched the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.
“Don’t be mistaken. Ukraine can — and will — stop Putin,” Biden said in a strong speech.
The White House continued Wednesday to say that Denmark and the Netherlands had begun sending F-16s to Ukraine.
Biden last year approved the key request by Ukraine, which wants advanced Western jets as it struggles to gain parity in the skies with Russia.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the F-16 transfer “focuses Vladimir Putin’s mind on the fact that it will not survive Ukraine, it will not survive us and, if it persists, the damage that will continue to be done to Russia and its interests. it will only deepen.”
“The fastest way to peace is through a strong Ukraine,” Blinken said.
But Donald Trump, who is leading Biden in the latest polls, has considered reaching a quick peace deal by forcing Ukraine to hand over territory to Russia.
The Republican mogul has repeatedly questioned the usefulness of NATO — formed in 1949 as a collective defense against Moscow — which he sees as an unfair burden on the United States.
On the eve of the summit, Russia launched a barrage of missiles into Ukraine, killing dozens, including in Kiev, where a children’s hospital was reduced to rubble.
Biden invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the summit, who expressed his gratitude for the F-16s, which he said would better protect his country from such “brutal Russian attacks.”
The new aircraft will “bring a just and lasting peace closer, proving that terror must fail anywhere and at any time,” Zelensky wrote on social media.
The summit will look for ways to “counter-Trump” the alliance, including by having NATO itself take over the coordination of arms delivery from the United States.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg also sought a commitment to continue supplying weapons at the same rate — about 40 billion euros ($43 billion) annually — to NATO members since Russia invaded.
“I expect that, regardless of the outcome of the US election, the US will remain a strong and staunch NATO ally,” Stoltenberg said as leaders gathered for the summit.
Biden also invited four key Pacific partners — Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand — as he seeks to increase NATO’s role in managing a rising China.
Ukraine wants firm assurances that it will one day join NATO, which considers an attack on any member an attack on all.
A NATO diplomat said the negotiations were based on a statement that would express support for Ukraine’s “irreversible path to full Euro-Atlantic integration, including NATO membership.”
Kiev’s members enjoy broad support from Baltic and Eastern European nations still haunted by decades of Soviet rule.
But Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz led the opposition, worried that the alliance would effectively go to war with nuclear-armed Russia as it seizes swathes of Ukraine.
Zelensky, who has achieved hero status in much of the West for his media defiance of Russia, expressed open anger at the latest NATO summit in Lithuania at the failure to provide a clearer path to membership.
Other leaders attending the summit include Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, one of Putin’s closest partners in the West, who before Washington went to Ukraine, Russia and China on a self-described peace mission criticized by Brussels and Washington.
Biden, Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will later welcome their counterparts to a gala dinner in the Washington area, which is in the throes of a heat wave.
A new NATO leader is British Prime Minister Keir Starmer, who is visiting days after taking office in a landslide victory for his Labor Party.
He will meet both Biden and Zelensky and is expected to confirm Britain’s strong support for Ukraine.

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