Biden, Zelensky sign bilateral security agreement

President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday signed a bilateral security agreement between the two countries, marking a major milestone in long-term support from the U.S. for Ukraine in its defensive war against Russia.

The two presidents signed the agreement at the end of the first day of the Group of Seven summit being held in Puglia, Italy, and spoke of their commitments during a press conference, standing side by side.

“Our goal is to strengthen Ukraine’s credible defense and deterrence capabilities for the long term,” Biden said. “A lasting peace for Ukraine must be underwritten by Ukraine’s own ability to defend itself now and to deter future aggression anytime in the future. The United States is going to help ensure that Ukraine can do both.”

The agreement between the U.S. and Ukraine is also expected to serve as an eventual bridge to Ukraine’s membership in NATO, with alliance members also pursuing their own bilateral agreements with Kyiv.

The president laid out the agreement, specially noting that it does not include U.S. troops on the ground, pushing back on some calls in Europe that the next step in supporting Ukraine is by providing foreign troops.

Biden said the U.S. is committed to continue military and economic aid for the war-torn country.

“Not by sending American troops to fight [in] Ukraine but by providing weapons and ammunition, expanded intelligence sharing, continue to train brave Ukrainian troops at bases in Europe and the United States, enhancing interoperability between our militaries in line with NATO standards, investing in Ukraine’s defense industrial base so in time … they can supply their own weapons,” Biden said.

Both leaders added that the agreement also includes working with partners to build a future for Ukraine that is “strong, sustainable, and resilient” and supporting economic and energy recovery for Ukraine after the Russian attacks.

When asked whether the U.S. is changing course to allow Ukraine to fire U.S. weapons into Russia, Biden pushed back and said he had changed that policy — even as earlier guidance from the White House to Ukrainian officials was that American weapons should not be used to strike targets inside Russia.

“It makes a lot of sense for Ukraine to be able to take out or combat what is coming across that border,” Biden said.

The president further said that Ukraine would have some of five Patriot air defense systems “relatively quickly,” amid urgent Ukrainian pleas to get at least seven of the air defense systems.

Zelensky described the signing of the bilateral agreement as “a truly historic day” and said that the security agreement is an agreement for the “protection of human lives.”

“This is an agreement on steps to guarantee sustainable peace and therefore it benefits everyone in the world because the Russian war in Ukraine is a global threat,” Zelensky said.

The Ukrainian president described the agreement as holding “detailed, legally binding” American commitments to Ukraine maintaining its status as an independent, sovereign country.

The commitments include military, defensive support for Ukraine as it continues its fight to push back Russian forces from its territory, “and also for a period of peace after the war, and we will definitely ensure peace,” Zelensky said.

The White House provided text of the agreement, which covers support for Ukraine’s vision of a peaceful resolution by regaining all its territory from Russian occupation; ongoing reforms in Ukraine to advance its integration into the European Union and aspirations to join NATO; and it outlines key areas of defense and security cooperation.

The agreement also includes an article on “termination” stating that either party may initiate termination of the agreement through a written request, and that would take effect six months after notification of the desire to end the agreement.

Still, the text allows for existing cooperation or arrangements to remain in effect even if the bilateral agreement is terminated.

“In the event that Ukraine becomes a member of NATO, the Parties shall meet and confer on the future status of this Agreement,” the text reads.

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