Zelensky Signs ‘Historic’ Security Pact With Germany

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a security deal with Germany on Friday in Berlin, hailed by Chancellor Olaf Scholz as a “historic step” anchoring sustained support for Kyiv in its raging battles against Russia.

Zelensky will also seal a similar deal with France later on Friday as he seeks to shore up help for his forces, who are struggling to hold off Russian attacks on the frontline city of Avdiivka.

With the Ukraine war about to enter a third year, the president was set to make a new plea for sustained help with financing and armaments at the Munich Security Conference, where leaders like US Vice President Kamala Harris are to gather.

Zelensky’s European tour comes at a critical time with Ukraine facing mounting pressure on the eastern frontlines because of ammunition shortages and fresh Russian attacks.

Fierce fighting raged around beleaguered Avdiivka, on the eastern frontline, which has become a main Russian target ahead of the February 24 invasion anniversary.

The long-term future of billions of dollars of Western aid is meanwhile in doubt, with the biggest contributor, the United States, in the throes of an election year.

A possible $60-billion package of military aid has been held up in Washington since last year because of wrangling in Congress.

The EU has also admitted that it will only be able to make good on half of the one million artillery shells it promised to send by March.

But Scholz underlined that the security pact inked on Friday illustrates that Germany will “not let up” in supporting Ukraine, as he also announced a new package of immediate military support worth 1.1 billion euros ($1.2 billion).

“This document can hardly be underestimated. It shows that Germany will continue to help Ukraine with its defence against Russia’s attacks. I have often said: for as long as it takes,” said Scholz, who also called the signing of the deal “a historic step.”

The agreement lays out support for a post-war Ukraine to build up a modern army that can repel further attacks from Russia in the future.

“Our security agreement is a truly unprecedented bilateral document,” said Zelensky.

The French presidency confirmed that a security agreement would be signed on Friday evening but did not provide any specifics on its content.

War Fatigue

G7 nations flagged plans to provide Ukraine with long-term defense support on the sidelines of the NATO summit last July. Alliance leaders failed, however, to set a timetable for Ukraine to join the bloc.

A first agreement had been signed with Britain in January, during British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak‘s visit to Kyiv.

Zelensky is seeking to shake off any war fatigue besetting his allies.

Besides meeting Harris on Saturday on the sidelines of the Munich conference, talks are also planned with the leaders of the Czech Republic, Denmark, and the Netherlands.

Ukraine was once the main conflict on the minds of world leaders but Israel’s war with Hamas and the ensuing escalating crisis in the Middle East now also require urgent attention.

Both conflicts will dominate the Munich conference, on and off stage.

Mideast in Focus

Israel’s President Issac Herzog, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh, and Jordan’s King Abdullah II are among 180 dignitaries at the conference.

The US and a small group of Middle Eastern nations could use the opportunity to float their ideas for long-term peace between Israel and the Palestinians with European counterparts on the sidelines, the Washington Post reported on Thursday.

Mediators are also currently racing to secure a truce on the ground and the release of hostages before Israel proceeds with a full-scale ground incursion into the Gaza Strip’s far southern city of Rafah, where more than 1.4 million Palestinians are trapped.

Roughly 130 hostages are still believed to be in Gaza following the October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas militants, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

At least 28,775 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Israel’s assault on the Palestinian territory, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

In another closely watched encounter, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet China’s top diplomat Wang Yi.

The tone of the talks could offer a hint into the current mood between China and the United States after an extremely fraught period over a host of issues, from tensions over Taiwan to trade and human rights problems.

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