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White House signals opposition to NATO-led weapons group for Ukraine

The White House on Wednesday pushed back on a proposal to move the U.S.-led group coordinating weapons delivery for Ukraine under the leadership of NATO.

John Kirby, the White House spokesperson for national security affairs, raised doubts about having the U.S. step aside from leading the Ramstein Group, a once-a-month meeting of 50-plus nations coordinating weapons deliveries for Ukraine.

“It is bigger than NATO, it’s 50 some-odd nations all around the world, including in the Indo Pacific — and what brought them together was American leadership,” Kirby said in a call with reporters on Wednesday.

“What’s keeping them together is American leadership.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has proposed the alliance consider leading the Ramstein grouping, viewed as an effort to protect against increased U.S. partisanship over aid for Ukraine. Europe also fears that former President Trump may withdraw support for Kyiv and NATO if successful in securing a second term as president. 

“​​Ukrainians, they need more support, but they also need more predictable and long term support,” Stoltenberg said at a press conference on Wednesday. 

Foreign ministers of NATO countries are discussing the proposals in Brussels this week, with the goal of reaching consensus in time for a Washington summit in July marking NATO’s 75th anniversary. 

Kirby described the discussions as “preliminary” but underscored the benefit of having the U.S. at the helm of the Ramstein group.

Ramstein is “really the result of American convening power, and an example of how President Biden has really revitalized our leadership on the world stage to bring countries together to do this,” Kirby said. 

“The President believes that America, and U.S. leadership remains vital, remains important. And he’s confident that we’re going to be able to continue to demonstrate that leadership.”

The Ramstein grouping is an initiative that was started by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in April 2022, a few months after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The group has met nearly every month either in person or virtually. The meeting is viewed as a critical venue to coordinate what Ukraine needs, which countries can deliver materials, and discussions over battlefield tactics and operations. 

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