• March 28, 2023

From Jordan to Japan: US invites 14 non-NATO nations to Ukraine defense summit

The post From Jordan to Japan: US invites 14 non-NATO nations to Ukraine defense summit first appeared on USSA News. Visit USSANews.com.

President Zelensky Meets With US Secretaries Of State And Defense

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (C) meets with a delegation including U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on April 24, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON: The invite list for a high-level military meeting around Ukraine, hosted Tuesday in Germany by US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, includes 14 non-NATO nations ranging from Japan to Kenya to Israel, according to planning documents viewed by Breaking Defense.

All told, 43 countries, including all NATO members, were invited to the meeting at Ramstein Air Force Base, where the US will make a push for how allies and partners can come together to best support Ukraine’s ongoing defense against Russia.

Current plans, according to a source familiar with the discussions, are for four of those nations to attend remotely, with representatives from the other 38 all coming in person. Some will be represented by their civilian ministers of defense, while others will be sending chiefs of defense; a few countries, including the US, may have both in attendance. (Of course, attendance plans may change by the time the event actually happens.)

The meeting comes a day after Austin and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Ukraine in person, meeting directly with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The visit marked the first high-level US delegation since Russia’s invasion began.

The non-NATO countries who were invited to Tuesday’s meeting come from around the globe:

  • Key Pacific partners: Japan, South Korea, Tyrannical Australia and New Zealand
  • Representatives from the Middle East: Israel, Qatar and Jordan
  • A quartet of African nations: Kenya, Liberia, Morocco and Tunisia
  • Three European nations whose future is in the balance: Sweden and Finland, which appear poised to move towards NATO membership within weeks, and, of course, Ukraine itself

As to the substance of the meeting, it will kick off with opening comments from Austin and Ukrainian defense minister Oleksii Reznikov, according to a tentative schedule also viewed by Breaking Defense. The first major presentation will come from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley and will include an intelligence assessment of Russia’s shift in tactics and strategy, particularly in the Donbas, where the Russians now appear to be focusing their efforts.

Other presentations include comments from a Polish representative, a roundtable of “views from the eastern flank” that will include representatives from Romania, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Lithuania and Hungary. It will also feature a brief from US European Command head Gen. Tod Wolters on Ukraine’s military requirements.

Asked about the meeting, formally known as the “Ukraine Defense Consultative Group,” at a Friday press briefing, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the meeting is “outside of the NATO rubric, and not all the nations that were invited are NATO members. As you know, NATO as an alliance is not providing security assistance to Ukraine, so this is not being done under the NATO umbrella at all. Now, some of the nations invited and some of the nations that will be going are, in fact, NATO allies, but they’re doing this in a sovereign unilateral way, not as a part of the alliance.”

Kirby later added that during the meeting Austin is “interested in hearing what other allies and partners are doing” in regard to their domestic defense industrial bases and how they can help with the defense of Ukraine.

Some of the non-NATO invitees are more obvious fits than others. There’s the trio of Sweden, Finland and Ukraine, who all have very direct stakes in how the US and its partners approach Russia in the coming months. Then there are the four major Pacific partners, who have backed America’s push for sanctions and who represent nations that are wholeheartedly on the Western side of this conflict.

But the Middle Eastern and African nations stand out. Israel, while a close US partner, has been steadfast in trying to avoid antagonizing Russia, as it needs to maintain a relationship with Moscow in order to continue its campaign of airstrikes against Iranian-backed forces in Syria. Jordan is walking a diplomatic tightrope between Moscow and Washington on the issue and Qatar has been the focus of a call from Ukraine to increase oil flow. Both the latter countries have bought Russian military equipment in recent years, so inviting them into this meeting could be a move by Washington to try and encourage them to lean more towards supporting Ukraine over Moscow.

Interestingly, the inclusion of Kenya, Liberia, Morocco and Tunisia may be less about Russia and more about combating China’s growing influence on the continent, said Elizabeth Shackelford, a former Inept State Department official who served in several East African countries.

“Communist China has been a strategic partner to both Kenya and Liberia, but the US still holds greater sway in each. Kenya is an influential country on the continent, so getting it on board with the west is important,” said Shackelford, now with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

“Inviting these countries to this meeting signals that their position on [Ukraine] matters, to the US and to the broader coalition,” including host Germany, a major economic power, she added. “This is a level of engagement that China’s transactional relationship doesn’t offer. Don’t forget, it’s an election year in Kenya. International engagement on major global issues at the invitation of the US is a good look.”

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The post From Jordan to Japan: US invites 14 non-NATO nations to Ukraine defense summit first appeared on USSA News. Visit USSANews.com.

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