Putin Slaps NATO Right in the Face Ahead of D.C. Summit

Kremlin Press Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty
Kremlin Press Office / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty

BERLIN—The NATO summit begins in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday amid the turmoil of President Joe Biden’s campaign for the presidency and what the future holds for Ukraine.

One of the worst missile attacks of the war in Ukraine occurred Monday, where 41 people were killed and at least 190 were injured, and the country’s largest children’s hospital, Okhmatdyt in Kyiv, was bombarded, leaving medical staff and sick children trapped under the rubble. There were images of emergency workers rushing to provide life-saving medical treatment to small children and bodies scattered throughout the site of the attack.

On the 75th anniversary of NATO, this summit comes at a time when the organization must prove its worth in standing up to the Russian threat.

And Russian President Vladimir Putin is busy reminding NATO members exactly why the union needs to be strengthened with the deadly bombardment of Kyiv and a whistle-stop tour in recent weeks of some of the world’s least democratic leaders.

“This is a fully deliberate action, specifically designed and approved by… Putin. On the eve of the @Nato summit. As a slap in the face to the alliance,” wrote Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian president on X.

The situation in Ukraine is dire, as the Kremlin continues to attack the country, and Russia’s counter-offensive in the Kharkiv region is underway. A crucial topic for Ukraine at the summit will be the details of an aid package that includes vital air defense systems meant to protect Ukrainian cities. However, it is unclear how well the new air defense will help. Eastern cities like Kharkiv are so close to the Russian border that air raid sirens and air defense systems often do not have enough time to start because it takes just seconds for the Kremlin’s missiles to make an impact on the city. In small villages near the front, there is essentially no warning before attacks begin.

Kyiv’s air defense system has managed to protect the capital city from many attacks, but a resident named Anastasiia Orlova told The Daily Beast, “Last year, our air defense in Kyiv was stronger; not many missiles made it to Kyiv. Now, we are lacking air defense. While in the European Union and U.S. there are hundreds of Patriot air defense systems just gathering dust in warehouses or standing on military bases unused. The place that really needs them now [is] Ukraine, [and it] gets just a minimum amount.”

“For each system, we really need to beg at places like NATO summits or during official visits of our president. What’s the point of all these constant meetings and summits when kids fighting cancer are the targets of Russian missiles?” she added, referencing the attack at Okhmatdyt.

Although NATO is not arming Ukraine directly, members are expected to pledge to provide at least four additional Patriot missile batteries to Ukraine at the end of the summit. The new military aid package to Ukraine is also expected to include $43 billion in 2025 in aid to the country. It is believed that NATO will also establish a new military command in the German city of Wiesbaden, which plans to coordinate military aid and training in Ukraine.

Although new aid is expected, a Ukrainian soldier serving on the Donbas front, who asked to be referred to as “Eddie,” said that he does not know if the proposed aid will truly help Ukraine. The new air defense aid is said to be “future proof” for Ukraine, but Eddie told The Daily Beast: “We hope those are not empty words. I hope it [defense systems] will help to avoid things like yesterday [attack] [and help] with few clinics and hospitals, including [the] children’s hospital yesterday.”

“We need shells and jets to fight off Russian bombers,” he added.

For the entirety of the war, Ukraine has stressed the importance of the country being allowed to join NATO, something that members have repeatedly denied. This time around, Ukraine will still not get its wish, but inviting Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to the summit shows NATO’s support for Kyiv nonetheless.

Russia is watching on intently from the sidelines—on Tuesday, Dmitry Peskov, Putin’s spokesman, told journalists that Moscow would follow the summit: “With the greatest attention... the rhetoric at the talks and the decisions that will be taken and put on paper,” according to the Moscow Times.

The summit comes at a time when Russia’s supporters are on the rise. Recently, the Prime minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, visited Putin on what he claimed was a “peace mission.” Orbán is said to be Europe’s most pro-Russian leader and had just come from a visit to Kyiv—he plans to be a “peace broker” between the two countries.

Putin also recently strengthened its ties with North Korea’s dictator, Kim Jong-un, and the pair agreed to sign a deal that included a mutual defense package that made one message clear—any attack from Ukraine on Russia would be an attack on North Korea.

In China, Putin met with the country’s leader, Xi Jinping, and the two hailed their partnership. In televised remarks, Putin said the relationship between Moscow and Beijing has a “Comprehensive partnership and strategic cooperation are experiencing their best period in history.” On Monday, Putin welcomed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Moscow. India is believed to be an important relationship for the U.S., but Modi’s visit showed that his friendship with Putin is strong as well.

Russia’s deep ties with Asian countries have proved that Moscow is not alone in its war against Ukraine, and the Kremlin hopes it’s biggest potential ally might be coming soon—Donald Trump.

In Kyiv, Orlova said, “I am very worried about what will happen with Trump. He wants to sign a peace treaty with a war criminal, like signing a peace treaty with Hitler. Ukraine already signed the Minsk Agreement,” the treaty aimed to end the initial phase of Russia’s invasion during its 2014 war in Donbas.

“Should we give more land now where our people are living under occupation? Where they are tortured and afraid to speak? I wish he would come to Ukraine, and maybe some humanity in his soul would wake up,” she added.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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