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Keep helping Ukraine, US tells Europe after own aid pledge

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BRUSSELS — The United States will do its best to help Ukraine, including with air defense needs, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith said, stressing bipartisan support for Kyiv to repel Russia out of its territory.

She added any Ukrainian plans for counteroffensive would be entirely up to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Speaking to POLITICO on Tuesday, just hours before the U.S. Senate approved the $60 billion package for Ukraine, Smith called on Europe to step up while applauding new British and German commitments.

“We hope that throughout 2024, and for as long as it takes, both sides of the Atlantic will be able to garner more support for Ukraine so that they can prevail on the battlefield,” Smith said.

On the latest package passed by Congress, Smith said its passage would send a signal to other NATO allies the U.S. is “committed to supporting Ukraine for as long as it takes, that there is bipartisan support for what Ukraine is doing — to push Russia out of its territory — and that now we look to Europe to continue to provide their assistance so that this partnership can continue.”

Europe is eyeing additional support for Ukraine despite the massive U.S. package. Britain, for instance, announced a £75 billion defense boost on Tuesday, with a pledge to meet 2.5 percent of GDP on defense spending, exceeding the alliance’s stated goal of 2 percent.

Smith also hailed Germany’s “wonderful” decision to give a Patriot system to Ukraine: “I think what’s going to happen is that’s going to inspire other countries to look at what more they can do in the area of air defense as well.”

A group of 50 countries will attend on Friday a monthly meeting, chaired by the United States, in Ramstein, Germany to discuss further assistance to Ukraine. Air defense will the main talking point.

“There’s no question that they [Ukraine] have other needs; they continue to talk to us about ammunition and artillery. But I think air defense is so critical right now, given the relentless attacks on the part of the Russians,” Smith said.

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