Ukraine is negotiating the creation of a "sky shield" of air defense; the EU seeks to find allies for Kyiv in Asia; and the United States has passed a bill allowing them to avert default. Meanwhile, Turkey is still blocking Sweden’s NATO accession..
The sky shield for Ukraine: what Zelenskyy proposes
Volodymyr Zelenskiy said he had received "powerful support" from allies attending a summit in Moldova, The Guardian reports.
Closing the conference of 46 European leaders held, Ukraine’s president spoke of the importance of overturning Russian’s supremacy in the air with a "sky shield" involving a combination of Patriot surface-to-air missiles and F-16 fighter jets.
He also won support from Rishi Sunak in his battle for accelerated membership of Nato.
"Our proposal is to build a sky shield over the European continent. It’s important to build it for the whole of Europe, starting with our territory," the Ukrainian president said.
Several countries, including the U.K., Denmark, Poland, the Netherlands, and Belgium, have said they want to help procure F-16s for Ukraine. The U.S. president, Joe Biden, endorsed training programmes last month for Ukrainian pilots on F-16s.
Senior sources involved in the F-16 coalition said the jets could be operational in six months’ time and be useful during the war or as a stabilizing factor in a postwar scenario.
The Dutch and Polish prime ministers progressed the timeline for delivery of the planes during a roundtable discussion that also included their Danish, Belgian, Norwegian and Swedish counterparts.
The Polish prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said the meeting had gone very well.
"We agreed to train Ukrainian pilots. Of course the UK does not have F-16s, but you have fighter jets and Rishi Sunak agreed to participate in the training exercise for Ukrainian pilots, training also for the logistics around these F-16s, the maintenance, introducing them to the Ukrainian aircraft system. We all agreed the next steps."
The EU seeks support for Kyiv in Asia
According to Politico, on June 2, an unprecedentedly high-profile European delegation departed for Singapore to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s top security forum. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas will be there, as will EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, flanked by Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov.
U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is also expected to attend in person — as are Boris Pistorius, Kajsa Ollongren and Pål Jonson, the defense ministers from Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden.
Although many Asian nations condemned Russia’s invasion at the United Nations, countries like India and Vietnam continue to do business with Russia, while Western allies Japan and South Korea are unable to let Ukraine get their lethal weapons due to domestic laws.
So far, Singapore, a tiny city-state, is one of only a handful of Asian countries to have joined the West in sanctioning Russia.
"We must defend core security principles whenever and wherever they are threatened, from Ukraine to the South China Sea," Josep Borrell said at the forum.
Borrell seeks to portray the EU as "a reliable security partner," one that is different from "a classic military alliance" or "a great power throwing its weight around," veiled references to the U.S. and China.
An EU official stressed on conditions of anonymity that Europe’s message is not just about Ukraine, but would also be focused on its commitment to Indo-Pacific security amid the assertive behavior of China.
A second EU official said the bloc would soon expand joint exercises with Japan, while also stepping up trilateral coordination between Brussels, Tokyo and Washington.
The United States avoided a default: Will money for Ukraine be affected?
The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed bipartisan legislation backed by President Joe Biden that lifts the government's $31.4 trillion debt ceiling, averting what would have been a first-ever default, Reuters reports.
The Senate voted 63-36 to approve the bill that had been passed on Wednesday by the House of Representatives following months of partisan bickering between Democrats and Republicans.
Earlier, the Treasury Department warned it would be unable to pay all its bills on June 5 if Congress failed to act by then.
With this legislation, the statutory limit on federal borrowing will be suspended until January 1, 2025.
Before the final vote, senators tore through nearly a dozen amendments — rejecting all of them. In particular, some Republicans wanted to beef up defense spending beyond the increased levels contained in the House-passed bill.
In response, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the spending caps in this legislation would not constrain Congress in approving additional money for emergencies, including helping Ukraine in its battle against Russia.
"This debt ceiling deal does nothing to limit the Senate's ability to appropriate emergency supplemental funds to ensure our military capabilities are sufficient to deter China, Russia and our other adversaries, and respond to ongoing and growing national security threats, including Russia's evil ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine," Schumer said.
Sweden may miss the deadline to join NATO: What are the risks?
NATO officials are concerned that they may miss the originally scheduled date of July 11 to admit Sweden to the alliance, CNN reports.
Sweden and Finland stated their intent to join NATO in May last year. Finland was finally accepted in April of this year, but Sweden’s accession is currently blocked.
The problem is that Turkey, a strategically important NATO member due to its geographical location in both the Middle East and Europe, and the alliance’s second-largest military power, is blocking Sweden’s accession for a number of reasons.
It claims that Sweden allows members of Kurdish terror groups to operate in its territory, and also accuses the Swedish government of being complicit in far-right protests where people burned copies of the Quran outside the Turkish embassy in Stockholm.
Finally, there are concerns about Erdogan's "special relationship" with Putin.
The officials believe that missing the July 11 deadline – the date of its next official summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius – would send a dangerous message to the alliance’s adversaries: Russia, North Korea, and China.
"If it’s missed, it tells people like Putin that there is a weak link in the Western alliance. It gives them time and space to cause trouble," one NATO diplomat told CNN.
An Eastern European diplomat told CNN that as well as "emboldening the enemies" of NATO, any delay risks "giving the sense of Erdogan’s power over the alliance." The diplomat added that "Erdogan will use the moment to squeeze every drop from this situation and will throw the ball to Sweden – making them hostage of their (own) anti-terrorist laws."
Officials from most NATO states are optimistic, but are aware that the deal will come with a price attached.
For starters, Turkey wants the US Congress to approve its purchase of US-made F-16 fighter jets. Diplomats are also well aware that Turkey’s economy is in dire straits, and that both the U.S. and EU currently have sanctions imposed on the country.
For their part, the United States and United Kingdom are privately offering Sweden assurances that its NATO accession is their priority, no matter what Turkey does.