The positive trend of western weapons pledges that has been building over the past few days continued on Tuesday, as U.S. President Joe Biden hosted Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the White House.
I heard the Dutch Prime Minister is sending a Patriot air-defense system?
He appeared to say this, yes, but later comments from Rutte weren’t quite so straightforward.
During a conversation with Biden at the White House, Rutte said: “We have the intention to join what you're doing with Germany on the Patriots project, the air-defense system.
“I think that is important and we joined that.”
The Netherlands does indeed have the U.S.-made system and Rutte’s comments were reported as a pledge to send a Patriot battery to Ukraine.
However, Rutte said later in an interview with CNN that "it doesn't have to be a whole system."
"It could also be gear as part of the system," he added, referring to helping with "interoperability, the training."
"We will be part of that coalition with Germany and the U.S.”
Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren meanwhile issued a statement saying that the Netherlands is "in consultation with the U.S. and Germany to provide a Patriot capacity."
So, are they sending a Patriot battery or not?
It’s not actually clear at the moment but President Zelensky certainly seems to think so.
During his daily address on Tuesday evening, he said he'd received "very important news" from the Dutch leader.
"Another Patriot battery will be provided to Ukraine. Thanks Mark!" Zelensky said, adding that this would mean "three guaranteed" Patriot batteries.
What has prompted the Netherlands to help out with the Patriot project?
Rutte said he intends to join German-U.S. efforts to arm Ukraine with sophisticated Patriot air-defense systems, citing the "horrible" Russian missile strike on a Dnipro apartment building, saying "these are horrible pictures and I think it strengthens even more our resolve to stay with Ukraine."
At least 45 people died in the attack at the weekend and around 20 are still missing.
While praising the Dutch contribution to help Ukraine, Biden said: "Russia is continuing to act in ways that are almost unbelievable."
Any other western weapons news?
Aside from Patriots, there were hints that more U.S. aid was coming as well as further pressure on Ukraine’s allies to provide heavy tanks.
Britain said on Tuesday that its breakthrough decision to provide tanks to Ukraine to fight Russia was a "moral imperative," and the U.K. was sending a signal to Russian President Vladimir Putin by backing the Ukrainians and becoming the first nation to agree to their request for Western tanks.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, on a visit to Washington said: "What Putin should understand is we are going to have the strategic endurance to stick with them until the job is done. And the best thing that he can do to preserve the lives of his own troops is to recognize that we're going to stick with Ukrainians until they are victorious.
"It all costs so much more in human lives and so much more in money if we allow this to be a long, drawn-out attritional war… so the moral imperative is to bring this to a conclusion."
Cleverly said that Britain decided to send tanks to the Ukrainians because "what we recognize they need is the ability to push back hard in the east and in the south," areas which Russia has tried to seize since its invasion launched nearly 11 months ago.
"If Putin believed that the world would succumb to Ukraine fatigue and lose the will to resist his ambitions, then that was once again another colossal misjudgment on his part.”
Cleverly’s comments come after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced on Saturday that his government would provide 14 Challenger 2 tanks, leading Russia to charge that Britain was worsening the conflict.
Are there more heavy tanks on their way?
After meeting Cleverly, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that "we applaud" the tank decision but stopped short of saying the U.S. would send tanks as well.
He did note that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will meet later this week with U.S. allies on Ukraine, saying: "I would anticipate that you'll hear more announcements in the days to come.
"We have continuously provided what Ukraine needs and we're doing it in a way to make sure that it's responsive to what's actually happening on the battlefield.”
European countries have previously supplied Kyiv with modernized versions of Soviet tanks and the U.S. and France have committed to lighter versions, with Washington sending Bradley armored vehicles, AFP reports.
Germany has faced calls from other Europeans to do more, with Chancellor Olaf Scholz set to decide whether to approve Leopard tanks for Ukraine. Scholz has committed to a major upgrade of the German military, moving away from his country's previous hesitation linked to the war legacy and efforts to engage Russia.
Asked about the Leopard debate, Blinken said that military shipments were "sovereign decisions for each country to make" but called Germany's efforts "quite extraordinary." He hailed Berlin for recently joining the U.S. in giving Ukraine a Patriot missile defense system.
President Joe Biden has held firm against sending long-range missiles to Ukraine, fearing that a strike deep inside Russia could trigger direct conflict between Washington and Moscow.
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