Last week (April 17–23), a regular Ramstein meeting took place. Allies announced that over the year they provided Ukraine with military assistance worth $55 billion.
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, visited Kyiv. He said that Ukraine's rightful place is in the Alliance. At the same time, our country leaders expect that “a political invitation to NATO will come” in July at the summit in Vilnius.
The G7 countries imposed additional sanctions against Russia. At the same time, the Kremlin spreads disinformation in Latin America, and says it seeks negotiations that would legitimize the annexation of Ukrainian territories. In addition, China’s position is getting increasingly active on this issue, and EU leaders are trying to persuade official Beijing to support the “Ukrainian side.”
Find below key statements and developments of the war-struck week.
“Ramstein” attracted $55 billion to strengthen Ukraine’s defense capability
On April 21, the 11th meeting of the Contact Group on Defense of Ukraine (also known as the Ramstein format) was held at the US Ramstein Air Base in Germany. It was attended by representatives from 50 countries.
According to US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, the participants focused on supporting Ukraine in the field of air defense, providing ammunition and support means.
In his speech, the Pentagon chief emphasized that Ukraine urgently needs assistance to protect its citizens, infrastructure, and troops from the Russian missile threat. At the same time, he said that the allies had already significantly strengthened the air defense of Ukraine: “This Contact Group has already provided key air defense systems to protect the skies and citizens of Ukraine, as well as critical infrastructure. This includes Patriot systems from the US, Germany and the Netherlands, SAMP-T from Italy and France, and NASAMS from Canada and Norway.”
On April 19, we learnt that the first battery of the Patriot air defense system had already arrived in Ukraine which consists of 4 to 8 launchers of 4 missiles each.
“Today, our beautiful Ukrainian sky is becoming more protected because Patriot anti-aircraft missile systems have arrived in Ukraine,” said the Minister of Defense of Ukraine.
In addition, Reznikov confirmed that Ukraine had received from Germany another air defense system, the second anti-aircraft missile system IRIS-T SLM. However, according to him, to build a multi-level air defense system, Ukraine needs modern aircraft fighters.
Patriots, IRIS-T, NASAMS, and MiG-29 are the last, but not the final, steps toward that goal. Given the Kremlin's barbaric tactics, we need NATO-type fighter jets,” he tweeted.
More military equipment also arrived to Ukraine, which delivery was announced during previous meetings at the “Ramstein,” such as the French “wheeled tanks” AMX-10. In addition, the armored vehicles M2 Bradley are already in use in the battlefield.
According to US Secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, during the year, the countries participating in the Contact Group provided Ukraine with $55 billion worth of security assistance, of which $35 billion came from the United States. In particular, Austin said that in just a few months, thanks to Ramstein, Ukraine received more than 230 tanks, more than 1,550 armored vehicles, as well as other equipment and ammunition to support more than 9 new armored brigades.
Latvia reported that they transfer to Ukraine all available portable anti-aircraft missile systems Stinger. Portugal will send several units of armored vehicles. Denmark and the Netherlands will deliver 14 Leopard 2 tanks.
Israel announced that in May they plan to test in Kyiv the missile attacks warning system, customized for Ukraine. Slovenia joined the shared purchase of ammunition. Estonia announced that they plan to provide Ukraine with a new batch of 155-mm shells. The Czech Republic proposed to expand the program of modernization of T-72 tanks for Ukraine.
Ukraine also signed a letter of intent with Poland and Germany to establish a Leopard 2 Combat Tank Maintenance Center in Poland.
Furthermore, South Korea started mentioning the possibility of providing Ukraine with weapons. This was announced on the eve of his visit to the United States by President Yoon Suk-yeol. This statement was highly criticized in Russia: Korean leader was threatened by Dmitry Medvedev, Maria Zakharova, Leonid Slutsky, and Dmitry Peskov.
Eventually, the outcomes of the Ramstein meeting were positive for Ukraine. Oleksiy Reznikov said that the agreements reached bring Russia closer to Nuremberg II.
“Each meeting in this format not only brings more useful “gifts” for the Ukrainian army, but also helps bring criminals to justice,” the politician wrote on Twitter.
Ukraine makes headway towards NATO membership
On April 20, NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, paid an unannounced visit to Ukraine. According to the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, this visit testifies to a new chapter in the Alliance's relations with Ukraine. At the bilateral meeting, they discussed the next meeting in the Ramstein format, incentives for partners to supply certain types of weapons, preparations for the NATO Vilnius Summit, and guarantees for Ukraine's security on the way to the Alliance.
Volodymyr Zelensky said that no one would understand if there is the political invitation to NATO for Ukraine does not come in Vilnius.
“We are also preparing for the NATO summit in Vilnius, which is scheduled for this summer, but its content is already being worked out. During such meetings, in contacts on various levels, that we have with partners," Zelensky said.
“Ukraine chooses its future in the Euro-Atlantic family. The future of Ukraine is in NATO, and the members of the Alliance agree with that,” he said.
At the same time, the issue of guarantees of Ukraine's security remains relevant, therefore, according to Stoltenberg, the main focus of NATO member states is “on ensuring that Ukraine wins” in the war against the Russian Federation.
The Secretary General noted that NATO is now working on a long-term initiative to support Ukraine, which will help it move from the Soviet doctrine to NATO standards and policies.
“The most important thing is that we need to make sure that Russia never again goes to war with Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said.
In fact, the war can become the main obstacle to Ukraine's rapid accession to NATO. Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov believes that Ukraine has reached an unprecedented level of interoperability with NATO, and is, in fact, already part of the Alliance's security space. However, German Defense Minister, Boris Pistorius, said that now, while the war continues, it is premature to discuss Ukraine's membership in NATO.
Stoltenberg’s arrival to Ukraine has predictably made Russians nervous. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova said that statements about Ukraine's accession to NATO after the victory over Russia are short-sighted and could “cause the final collapse of the European security system.” Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov said that preventing Ukraine from joining NATO is one of the tasks of the so-called “special operation”.
“We are dealing with an aggressive bloc that views our country as an adversary and encroaches on the security of our country,” Peskov said.
But US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin explained that Russia's aggressive actions led Ukraine, Finland, and Sweden to decide to protect themselves through joining the Alliance.
“This makes certain things clear: Putin's war is not a consequence of NATO enlargement, it is a cause to NATO enlargement,” he said.
G7 Countries Plan to Tighten Sanctions Against Russia
One of the most important diplomatic events of the past week was the G7 ministerial talks held in Japan. This meeting brought another success for Ukraine, because the world’s leading countries made agreements against the Kremlin.
First, G7 foreign ministers agreed to tighten control over the implementation of anti-Russian sanctions and better respond to the supply of weapons by third countries to Russia.
Secondly, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Japan and France built an alliance to oust Russia from the international nuclear energy market.
Third, the G7 countries, in a joint communiqué, reiterated the call for third parties to “cease assistance to Russia in waging war or pay a high price for it.” The ministers also added that Russia's irresponsible nuclear rhetoric and their promise to deploy nuclear weapons in Belarus are unacceptable.
In general, Ukrainian officials are more often calling on partners to impose sanctions against the Russian nuclear industry, as the United States began to do. Thus, the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, called for “the toughest restrictions possible” against the Kremlin's nuclear industry, and underlined that “no Rosatom should be on the nuclear fuel market.” Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmygal, emphasized that “Russia should be thrown away of nuclear fuel supply chains.”
It is also worth noting that the German Ministry of Economy pledged to the European Commission with a proposal to introduce restrictions against the civil nuclear sector of Russia, within the framework of the next package of sanctions.
In addition, on April 17, there were reports that, despite the increase in world prices, the price limit for Russian oil supplied by sea, will be kept at $60 per barrel.
Thus, the leading states of the world once again demonstrated their support for Ukraine.
As German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock quite aptly put it: “Now, it is about showing Putin our determination that he will not achieve his goals, even through exhaustion and fatigue.” Of course, for Ukraine, such a determination would be to impose even tougher restrictions against the Kremlin, for example, a total ban on exports to Russia, which, by the way, according to Bloomberg, our allies are considering as an option.
However, we should understand that Russia, unfortunately, still has supporters and allies who, like the Kremlin itself, will try to lift previous sanctions and actively oppose the new restrictions. In addition, they will call for negotiations, because this topic was revived by Russia.
Russia is ready to negotiate only when “taking into account its own interests”, and the EU is trying to persuade China to support “the Ukrainian side”
On April 20, a high-impact letter to US President Joe Biden was published, and signed by 19 US senators and congressmen from the Republican Party. The authors demand to stop “unlimited assistance to Ukraine” and call for a diplomatic strategy “to quickly end the war.”
Senators and congressmen claim that each new weapon provided to Ukraine increases the risk of direct conflict with the Kremlin. The signatories of the letter include politicians with a clear anti-Ukrainian position, such as a Trumpite and far-right conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Alarming signals about the potential “triggering of negotiations” appear from other sources. Bloomberg reports that French President Emmanuel Macron intends to talk to China with a plan that, in his opinion, could potentially lead to negotiations between Russia and Ukraine this summer. Although after a conversation with Joe Biden, both leaders “reaffirmed their unwavering support for Ukraine against the backdrop of Russia's brutal aggression,” it is likely that the topic of negotiations between Ukraine and Russia and the potential involvement of China in them be discussed more actively.
For Ukraine, the main thing is that official Beijing take into account the Ukrainian formula for peace.
We hope that China will heed the words of the head of EU diplomacy, Josep Borrell, who said that relations between the EU and China “cannot develop normally if China does not use its influence on Russia to force them to withdraw troops from Ukraine and end the war.”
Totally different opinions have been voiced by the Kremlin. Thus, Vladimir Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov once again stressed that Russia “is ready to listen to any ideas for a settlement in Ukraine that take into account Moscow's interests,” which in fact means that Ukraine must agree to the territorial losses of the areas seized by Russia.
Peskov also said that “the Kremlin had no information about the plan of French President Emmanuel Macron to prepare negotiations with China between Russia and Ukraine.”
In addition, according to Peskov, Russia “is ready to listen to the peace initiatives of Brazil to achieve peace in Ukraine, because they had been developed with account for Russia’s position.” It is not surprising because Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, as the White House notes, “repeats Russian and Chinese propaganda.” On April 15, during a visit to Beijing, Silva said that the United States should “stop encouraging war and start talking about peace.” On April 22, during a trip to Portugal, he said that his goal was to “build a way to bring them both [Russia and Ukraine] to the negotiating table.”
At the same time, Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleh Nikolenko invited Silva to Ukraine so that he could “understand the true causes and essence of Russian aggression and its consequences for global security.” It is interesting to see that the invitation “from Vladimir Putin” to visit Moscow was handed over to the President of Brazil by the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. During his Latin American tour, he was not able to meet with Luis da Silva but held the talks with Brazilian Foreign Minister, Mauro Vieira, and officials of other states.
Russian Disinformation in Latin America
Last week, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tried to promote Russian narratives in Latin America. During the international tour, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry visited Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
While in Latin America, Lavrov imposed a misleading position of the Russian side, disguising their selfish interests, which allegedly consisted in the polarization of interstate relations. He openly opposed the “collective West,” accusing the US of seeking to establish a “rules-based world order” that “reflects a desire to continue colonial methods of living with the help of others and removing competitors.”
“The past two years clearly showed that dictatorship, blackmail, threats and sanctions are the only methods that the United States is useing in international relations,” Lavrov said.
At the same time, the head of the Russian foreign policy agency insisted on unconditional compliance with the UN Charter, especially on the issue of the sovereign equality of states and the right of nations to self-determination.
“We will continue to work together in the international arena to mobilize countries that also reject such a dictatorship to work together in favor of building a multipolar world order in full compliance with the UN Charter,” he said.
Tampering the provisions of the UN Charter, Lavrov also tried to justify the Russian invasion. In Venezuela, he said that each country should respect the principle of territorial integrity of states whose governments represent the interests of all the people living in this territory.
“How can one hope that the Kyiv regime represents the interests of Crimeans or residents of southeastern Ukraine? The Western masters demand from Kyiv to forcefully return those territories,” Lavrov said.
According to him, as soon as this happens, representatives of the Zelensky regime will destroy the Russian language and culture in Crimea in favor of the dominance of Ukrainian and global culture.
In his Latin American road trip, Sergei Lavrov tried to bring up the provisions of the UN Charter on the sovereign equality of states and use them in favor of the Russian side, accusing the West of allegedly illegitimate sanctions. Besides, he mentioned the principle of self-determination of peoples in the context of the so-called “referendums” in the Ukrainian territories temporarily occupied by Russia, where people allegedly seek to reunite with the Russian Federation.
Lavrov also distorted the message about the Kremlin's intentions for a peaceful settlement of the war, claiming that Russia is “interested to see the war in Ukraine end as soon as possible.”
“It is clear that we are interested to see the Ukrainian conflict end as soon as possible. We have repeatedly explained in detail the reasons for what is happening, and the goals that we pursue in this regard,” he said in Brazil.
Lavrov's trip could have been a planned operation to discredit Ukraine and spread manipulative information. British intelligence emphasizes that the Russian state systematically uses information operations as the key element of their strategy in the war.
“Russian state actors present manipulative narratives, both pre-planned and ad hoc. Their current priorities almost certainly involve discrediting the Ukrainian government and reducing international support for Ukraine,” the report said.