Ukraine, China front and center of NATO 75th anniversary summit

NATO allies on Wednesday pledged to support Ukraine on an “irreversible” path to integration while calling on China to cease all support for Russia’s war effort against Kyiv. This as new fighter jets are set to patrol the skies of Ukraine. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the details.

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Judge may end Giuliani’s bankruptcy, exposing him to lawsuits

new york — A U.S. judge on Wednesday said he would likely end bankruptcy for Rudy Giuliani, a onetime lawyer for former President Donald Trump. The move would enable lawsuits against Giuliani for defamation, sexual harassment and other claims to proceed in other courts.  

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Sean Lane said at a court hearing in White Plains, New York, that he would rule Friday on competing requests from Giuliani – who was New York City’s mayor from 1994 through 2001 – and his creditors about the future of his bankruptcy.  

Giuliani, 80, filed for bankruptcy protection in December after a Washington, D.C., court ordered him to pay $148 million to two Georgia election workers that he falsely accused of rigging votes in the 2020 presidential election, which Democrat Joe Biden won.  

The bankruptcy prevented the election workers from collecting on that judgment, while freezing other lawsuits stemming from Giuliani’s work for Trump, as he sought to overturn his loss in the 2020 election. 

Last week, Giuliani asked to convert his personal bankruptcy case into a straightforward liquidation, which would force him to sell nearly all of his assets. One group of creditors asked Lane to appoint a trustee to take over Giuliani’s finances and businesses, which could lead to a lengthy and contested bankruptcy liquidation, while another group said Giuliani should be kicked out of bankruptcy altogether.  

All three options pose significant risks for Giuliani. 

Lane said dismissal was likely the best option, given the difficulties the court has had in getting straight answers from Giuliani about his finances. A trustee would likely face the same problems getting Giuliani’s cooperation, while incurring additional expenses that would reduce Giuliani’s ability to pay creditors, Lane said.  

“I’m concerned that the difficulties we’ve encountered on transparency will continue,” Lane said.  

A dismissal of his bankruptcy would allow Giuliani’s creditors to resume lawsuits against him, but it would also give him more freedom to appeal the $148 million defamation judgment that forced him to seek bankruptcy protection.  

“We believe that the debtor’s best chance of getting an appellate determination would be dismissal,” Giuliani attorney Gary Fischoff said during Wednesday’s court hearing. 

Lane previously stopped Giuliani from spending money on the appeal while he was bankrupt, saying his Chapter 11 filing had paused litigation on both sides.  

Rachel Strickland, representing the former Georgia election workers, Wandrea “Shaye” Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, said Giuliani should be kicked out of bankruptcy so her clients can try to collect on their judgment against him.  

Giuliani “regards this court as a pause button on his woes while he continues to live his life unbothered,” Strickland told Lane.  

Moss and Freeman, who are Black, faced a deluge of racist and sexist messages, including threats of lynching, after Trump and his allies spread false claims that they were engaged in vote fraud. 

A committee representing Giuliani’s other creditors asked Lane to instead appoint a trustee to take over Giuliani’s finances and businesses, like his podcasting engagements and coffee promotions. Committee attorney Phil Dublin said ending the bankruptcy now would create a “race to the courthouse” among the many people who have sued Giuliani.  

Giuliani’s other creditors include former employee Noelle Dunphy, who has accused Giuliani of sexual assault and wage theft, and the voting machine companies Dominion and Smartmatic, who have also sued Giuliani for defamation. Giuliani has denied the allegations. 

In addition to the civil lawsuits, Giuliani is facing criminal charges in Georgia and Arizona for aiding Trump’s efforts to subvert the 2020 election results, and his false claims about the election have caused him to lose his license to practice law in New York. 

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Handbook prepared for Trump to take direct control of government bureaucracy

If former U.S. president Donald Trump wins the November presidential election, he may seek to place the entire federal bureaucracy under direct presidential control. That move is outlined in a playbook crafted by more than 100 conservative organizations for a prospective second Trump term. VOA’s chief national correspondent Steve Herman reports. VOA footage by Adam Greenbaum.

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In ‘Rust’ trial, Alec Baldwin accused of breaking gun rules; defense blames experts

SANTA FE, New Mexico — A New Mexico prosecutor on Wednesday said Alec Baldwin broke “cardinal rules” of gun safety in the 2021 killing of “Rust” cinematographer Halyna Hutchins while his lawyer said he was failed by firearms experts. 

The 66-year-old Baldwin, on trial in Hollywood’s first on-set shooting fatality in three decades, took notes at the defense table and listened calmly to opening statements in his involuntary manslaughter trial. The trial is largely unprecedented in U.S. history, holding an actor criminally responsible for a gun death during filming. 

A New Mexico jury of 12 and four alternates — 11 women and five men — heard prosecutor Erlinda Johnson outline arguments that Baldwin disregarded safety during filming of the low-budget movie before pointing a gun at Hutchins during a rehearsal, cocking it and pulling the trigger as they set up a camera shot on a set southwest of Santa Fe. 

“The evidence will show that someone who played make believe with a real gun and violated the cardinal rules of firearm safety is the defendant, Alexander Baldwin,” Johnson said. 

Baldwin’s wife Hilaria Baldwin sat in the second row of the public gallery, his brother Stephen Baldwin in front of her. 

His lawyer Alex Spiro pointed to “Rust” armorer Hannah Gutierrez — head of gun safety — and first assistant director Dave Halls — responsible for overall set safety. Both have been convicted in the shooting, and Spiro said they did not check the rounds in the gun to ensure it was safe for Baldwin to use.  

“There were people responsible for firearms safety but actor Alec Baldwin committed no crime,” said Spiro. 

Hutchins was killed, and director Joel Souza wounded when Baldwin’s reproduction 1873 Single Action Army revolver fired a live round, inadvertently loaded by Gutierrez. 

Since a police interview on Oct. 21, 2021, the day of the shooting, Baldwin has argued the gun just “went off.”  

In an ABC News interview two months later, Baldwin told George Stephanopoulos he did not pull the trigger. A 2022 FBI test found the gun was in normal working condition and would not fire from full cock without the trigger being pulled. 

Spiro said during his opening arguments that no one saw Baldwin “intentionally pull the trigger,” but that it was the responsibility of firearms safety experts to ensure a firearm was safe for an actor “to wave it, to point it, to pull the trigger, like actors do.”  

State prosecutors charged Baldwin with involuntary manslaughter in January 2022. They dropped charges three months later after Baldwin’s lawyers presented photographic evidence the gun was modified, arguing it would fire more easily, bolstering the actor’s accidental discharge argument. 

Prosecutors called a grand jury to reinstate the charge in January after an independent firearms expert confirmed the 2022 FBI study. 

FBI testing broke the gun, and Baldwin’s lawyers will tell jurors that destruction of the weapon prevented them from proving the gun was modified. 

Armorer Gutierrez, whose job on the set of “Rust” included managing firearms safely, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in March for loading the live round.

Prosecutors will have to persuade jurors Baldwin is also guilty of willful and reckless criminal negligence.

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Astronauts confident Boeing space capsule can safely return to Earth

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — Two astronauts who should have been back on Earth weeks ago said Wednesday that they’re confident that Boeing’s space capsule can return them safely, despite breakdowns.

NASA test pilots Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams launched aboard Boeing’s new Starliner capsule early last month, the first people to ride it. Leaks and thruster failures almost derailed their arrival at the International Space Station and have kept them there much longer than planned.

In their first news conference from orbit, they said they expect to return once thruster testing is complete on Earth. They said they’re not complaining about getting extra time in orbit and are enjoying helping the station crew.

“I have a real good feeling in my heart that the spacecraft will bring us home, no problem,” Williams told reporters.

The two rocketed into orbit on June 5 on the test flight, which was originally supposed to last eight days.

NASA ordered the Starliner and SpaceX Dragon capsules a decade ago for astronaut flights to and from the space station, paying each company billions of dollars. SpaceX’s first taxi flight with astronauts was in 2020. Boeing’s first crew flight was repeatedly delayed because of software and other issues.

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US-built pier will be put back in Gaza for several days to move aid, then permanently removed

WASHINGTON — The pier built by the U.S. military to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza will be reinstalled Wednesday to be used for several days, but then the plan is to pull it out permanently, several U.S. officials said. It would deal the final blow to a project long plagued by bad weather, security uncertainties and difficulties getting food into the hands of starving Palestinians.

The officials said the goal is to clear whatever aid has piled up in Cyprus and on the floating dock offshore and get it to the secure area on the beach in Gaza. Once that has been done, the Army will dismantle the pier and depart. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because final details are still being worked out.

Officials had hoped the pier would provide a critical flow of aid to starving residents in Gaza as the nine-month-long war drags on. But while more than 8.6 million kilograms of food has gotten into Gaza via the pier, the project has been hampered by persistent heavy seas and stalled deliveries due to ongoing security threats as Israeli troops continue their offensive against Hamas in Gaza.

The decision comes as Israeli troops make another push deeper into Gaza City, which Hamas says could threaten long-running negotiations over a cease-fire and hostage release, after the two sides had appeared to have narrowed the gaps in recent days.

U.S. troops removed the pier on June 28 because of bad weather and moved it to the port of Ashdod in Israel. But distribution of the aid had already stopped due to security concerns.

The United Nations suspended deliveries from the pier on June 9, a day after the Israeli military used the area around it for airlifts after a hostage rescue that killed more than 270 Palestinians. U.S. and Israeli officials said no part of the pier itself was used in the raid, but U.N. officials said any perception in Gaza that the project was used may endanger their aid work.

As a result, aid brought through the pier into the secure area on the beach piled up for days while talks continued between the U.N. and Israel. More recently, the World Food Program hired a contractor to move the aid from the beach to prevent the food and other supplies from spoiling.

The Pentagon said all along that the pier was only a temporary project, designed to prod Israel into opening and allowing aid to flow better through land routes — which are far more productive than the U.S.-led sea route.

And the weather now is projected only to get worse.

The pier was damaged by high winds and heavy seas on May 25, just a bit more than a week after it began operating, and was removed for repairs. It was reconnected on June 7, but removed again due to bad weather on June 14. It was put back days later, but heavy seas again forced its removal on June 28.

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Biden launches NATO summit with sober warning about global threats

U.S. President Joe Biden on Tuesday welcomed NATO leaders and heralded the alliance’s 75th anniversary while making the case for peace through strength amid the largest challenge to peace Europe has faced in decades. Other administration officials made similar arguments for bolstering defense to fight global threats. VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell reports from Washington

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New York City targets hundreds of illegal marijuana stores

New York City officials are contending with a surge of illegal marijuana shops that have appeared on nearly every corner of the Big Apple due to cannabis legalization. Aron Ranen reports.

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Federal Reserve’s Powell says US making ‘modest’ progress on inflation

Washington — The U.S. Federal Reserve is making “modest” progress in its inflation fight, the head of the U.S. central bank told lawmakers Tuesday, on the first of two days of testimony in Congress.

When prices surged in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fed responded by hiking interest rates to a two-decade high as it attempts to cool down the U.S. economy and return inflation to its long-term target of two percent.

Inflation has eased significantly since it peaked in 2022, but progress stalled in the first quarter of this year, effectively putting the Fed’s fight on pause.

The data in the second quarter has been more encouraging, prompting some cautious optimism from some policymakers in recent weeks.

Speaking in Washington on Tuesday, Fed Chair Jerome Powell told lawmakers on the Senate Banking Committee that the most recent readings “have shown some modest further progress” since the first quarter of the year.

“More good data would strengthen our confidence that inflation is moving sustainably toward two percent,” he added, according to prepared remarks.

The Fed is widely expected to hold interest rates again when it meets to set interest rates later this month, but could begin cutting rates in September.

Futures traders have assigned a probability of more than 75% that the Fed will make its first rate cut by September.

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NATO alliance meets under cloud over President Biden’s future

President Joe Biden welcomes members of the newly enlarged NATO alliance this week for a summit aimed at planning for Ukraine’s future defense — and, some observers say, “Trump-proofing” it if Biden loses the November poll amid growing doubts over his future. VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell reports from the White House.

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Paramount, Skydance merge, ending Redstone family reign

NEW YORK — The entertainment giant Paramount will merge with Skydance, closing out a decades-long run by the Redstone family in Hollywood and injecting desperately needed cash into a legacy studio that has struggled to adapt to a shifting entertainment landscape. 

It also signals the rise of a new power player, David Ellison, the founder of Skydance and son of billionaire Larry Ellison, the founder of the software company Oracle. 

Shari Redstone’s National Amusements has owned more than three-quarters of Paramount’s Class A voting shares through the estate of her late father, Sumner Redstone. She had battled to maintain control of the company that owns CBS, which is behind blockbuster films such as “Top Gun” and “The Godfather.” 

Just weeks after turning down a similar agreement with Skydance, however, Redstone agreed to a deal on terms that had not changed much. 

“Given the changes in the industry, we want to fortify Paramount for the future while ensuring that content remains king,” said Redstone, who is chair of Paramount Global.

The new combined company is valued at around $28 billion. In connection with the proposed transaction, which is expected to close in September 2025 pending regulatory approval, a consortium led by the Ellison family and RedBird Capital will be investing $8 billion. 

Skydance, based in Santa Monica, California, has helped produce some major  

Paramount hits in recent years, including Tom Cruise films like “Top Gun: Maverick” and installments of the “Mission Impossible” series. 

Skydance was founded in 2010 by David Ellison and it quickly formed a production partnership with Paramount that same year. If the deal is approved, Ellison will become chairman and chief executive officer of what’s being called New Paramount. 

Ellison outlined the vision for New Paramount on a conference call about the transaction Monday. In addition to doubling down on core competencies, notably with a “creative first” approach, he stressed that the company needs to transition into a “tech hybrid” to stay competitive in today’s evolving media landscape. 

“You’ve watched some incredibly powerful technology companies move into the … media space and do so very successfully,” Ellison said. He added that it was “essential” for New Paramount to chart a similar course going forward. 

That includes plans to “rebuild” the Paramount+ streaming service, Ellison noted — pointing to wider goals to expand direct-to-consumer business, such as increasing engagement time on the platform and reducing user churn. He also said that the company aims to transition to more cloud-based production and continue the use of generative artificial intelligence to boost efficiency. 

Executives also outlined further restructuring plans for New Paramount on Monday’s conference call, with chairman of RedBird Sports and Media Jeff Shell noting that they had identified some $2 billion in cost efficiencies and synergies that they’ll “attempt to deliver pretty rapidly.” 

Shell and others addressed the declining growth of linear TV. Flagship linear brands will continue to represent a big chunk of the company’s operations, but learning how to run this portion of business differently will be key, he said. 

Paramount’s struggles

The on-again, off-again merger arrives at a tumultuous time for Paramount, which has struggled to find its footing for years and its cable business has been hemorrhaging. In an annual shareholder meeting in early June, the company also laid out a restructuring plan that included major cost cuts. 

Leadership at Paramount was also volatile earlier this year after its CEO Bob Bakish, following several disputes with Redstone, was replaced with an “office of the C.E.O,” run by three executives. Four company directors were also replaced. 

Paramount is one of Hollywood’s oldest studios, dating back its founding in 1914 as a  distributor. Throughout its rich history, Paramount has had a hand in releasing films — from “Sunset Boulevard” and “The Godfather,” to “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and “Titanic.” 

The studio also distributed several early Marvel Cinematic Universe films, including “Iron Man” and “Thor,” before the Disney acquisition. In addition to “Mission: Impossible” and “Top Gun,” Paramount’s current franchises include “Transformers,” “Star Trek” and “Jackass.” 

While Paramount has not topped the annual domestic box office charts for over a decade, the wild box office success of “Top Gun: Maverick” in 2022 (nearly $1.5 billion worldwide) was an important boon to both movie theaters and the industry’s pandemic recovery. 

Still, its theatrical output has declined somewhat in recent years. Last year it released only eight new movies and came in fifth place for overall box office at around $2 billion — behind Universal (24 films), Disney (17 films), Warner Bros. and Sony. 

Movie plans

This year the release calendar is similarly modest, especially with the absence of “Mission: Impossible 8,” which was pushed to 2025 amid the strikes. The studio has had some successes, with “Bob Marley: One Love” and “A Quiet Place: Day One,” and still to come is Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” sequel. 

The National Association of Theatre Owners, a trade organization that represents over 35,000 screens in the U.S., said in a statement Monday that it plans to look closely at the details of the merger with an eye toward whether it will produce more or less theatrical releases. 

“We are encouraged by the commitment that David Ellison and the Skydance Media team have shown to theatrical exhibition in the past,” said Michael O’Leary, president and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners. “A merger that results in fewer movies being produced will not only hurt consumers and result in less revenue, but negatively impact people who work in all sectors of this great industry — creative, distribution and exhibition.” 

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US voters mixed on Biden staying in race 

U.S. President Joe Biden says he is staying in the race for reelection against former President Donald Trump after Biden struggled in their first debate. VOA correspondent Scott Stearns looks at what U.S. voters think about the president’s continuing candidacy.

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US seeks to boost scrutiny on property deals near military facilities

Washington — The United States plans to broaden oversight of foreigners’ real estate transactions on properties close to military installations, the Treasury Department said Monday, as concerns involving Chinese land purchases grow. 

“President [Joe] Biden and I remain committed to using our strong investment screening tool to defend America’s national security, including actions that protect military installations from external threats,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. 

Under a proposed rule, more than 50 facilities will be added to a list of sites where surrounding property transactions may be reviewed by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) — taking the total figure to 227. 

CFIUS’s jurisdiction covers land purchases as well. 

The concern is that a foreigner’s purchase or lease of certain properties could allow them to collect intelligence or “expose national security activities” to foreign surveillance risks, the Treasury noted. 

A senior Treasury official said CFIUS’s jurisdiction was “country-agnostic” and did not specify if the latest rule was aimed at quelling concerns directed at specific countries like China or Russia. 

In May, U.S. authorities announced that a Chinese-owned crypto firm was barred from using land near a strategic U.S. nuclear missile base, over national security concerns. 

MineOne Partners Limited was ordered to divest from land it bought in 2022, which sat less than a mile from Wyoming’s Francis E. Warren Air Force Base — home to Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles. 

CFIUS had also raised concerns about the installation of “specialized” crypto mining equipment on the land which is “potentially capable of facilitating surveillance and espionage activities.” 

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Review of prescribed fires finds gaps in key areas as US Forest Service looks to improve safety 

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two years after the U.S. Forest Service sparked what would become the largest and most destructive wildfire in New Mexico’s recorded history, independent investigators say there are gaps that need to be addressed if the agency is to be successful at using prescribed fire as a tool to reduce risk amid climate change.  

The investigation by the Government Accountability Office was requested by U.S. Rep. Teresa Leger Fernández after communities in her district were ravaged in 2022 by the Hermit’s Peak-Calf Canyon Fire.  

The congresswoman wanted to know what factors the Forest Service had identified as contributing to the escape of prescribed fires over the last decade and whether the agency was following through with reforms promised after a pause and review of its prescribed burn program.  

The report made public Monday notes there were 43 escapes documented between 2012 and 2021 out of 50,000 prescribed fire projects. That included blazes in national forests in more than a dozen states, from the California-Nevada border to Utah, New Mexico, Idaho, North Carolina and Arkansas.  

With the U.S. Forest Service and other land management agencies tapping into federal infrastructure and inflation reduction funding to boost the number of prescribed burn operations over the next 10 years, Leger Fernández said it’s more important than ever to ensure they are doing it safely.  

The congresswoman was visiting northern New Mexico over recent days, appreciating how things have greened up with summer rains. But the forests are still tinder boxes, she said.  

“We need to address our forest, but we need to do it in a responsible way,” she told The Associated Press. “When you play with fire, there is no margin for error.” 


The Forest Service ignites about 4,500 prescribed fires each year, reducing fuels on about 1.3 million acres. It’s part of a multi-billion dollar cleanup of forests choked with dead trees and undergrowth.  

There have been mixed results as federal land managers have fallen behind on some projects and skipped over some highly at-risk communities to work in less threatened ones, according to a 2023 AP review of data, public records and congressional testimony.  

However, the Forest Service said in a response to the GAO that it is making progress and generally agrees with the findings made public Monday. Forest Service Chief Randy Moore wrote that his agency will create and implement a corrective action plan to address the gaps.  

Moore also noted 2023 marked a record year for treatments of hazardous fuels on forest lands and his agency was on track to offer more training to build up crews who can specialize in prescribed burn operations.  

“The agency is using every tool available to reduce wildfire risk at a pace and scale which will make a difference within our current means,” Moore wrote.  

The GAO reviewed volumes of documents over several months, interviewed forest officials and made site visits over many months. The investigation found the Forest Service has taken steps toward implementing several immediate recommended changes following the Hermit’s Peak-Calf Canyon Fire. That included developing a national strategy for mobilizing resources for prescribed fire projects.  

There were dozens of other actions the agency identified as part of its 2022 review, but the GAO found “important gaps remain” as the Forest Service hasn’t determined the extent to which it will implement the remaining actions, including how or when.  

The GAO is recommending the Forest Service develop a plan for implementing the reforms, set goals, establish a way to measure progress and ensure it has enough resources dedicated to day-to-day management of the reform effort. It also pointed out that the Forest Service in agency documents recognized the reforms will require major changes to practices and culture.  

Leger Fernández said she hopes change will come quickly because wildfires are becoming more expensive and more dangerous.  

“They are killer fires now. They move very fast, and people cannot get out of the way fast enough,” she said. “And I think that kind of massive emergency that they are will lead to faster change than you might normally see in a large federal bureaucracy.” 

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NATO secretary general: Quickest way to end Ukraine war is to lose it; but won’t bring peace

WASHINGTON — As NATO prepares to convene on Tuesday a three-day summit in Washington to celebrate its 75th birthday, the alliance is reinforcing its support for Ukraine in the ongoing war with Russia.

During a news conference with a handful of reporters Sunday previewing the summit, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said all NATO members want peace, and that can be achieved if Russian President Vladimir Putin understands he cannot win on the battlefield.

“The quickest way to end this war is to lose the war,” he said. “But that that will not bring peace. That will bring occupation.”

Stoltenberg outlined key measures NATO would take, including the establishment of a dedicated command in Germany, enhanced financial and military aid, and bilateral security agreements.

Stoltenberg emphasized these initiatives while addressing the complexities of Ukraine’s potential NATO membership and the alliance’s united front against Russian aggression.

The precise language of the final agreement of the summit regarding Ukraine’s NATO membership is still under negotiation, he said.

In April, Stoltenberg said the alliance did not expect to offer Ukraine NATO membership during the summit, but rather a “bridge” to membership.

At the summit, that “bridge” will encompass five essential components:

Security assistance command: NATO is setting up a new command in Germany, with logistical hubs in Eastern Europe, to coordinate international security assistance for Ukraine. This will involve 700 personnel led by a three-star NATO general, according to Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg said there have been differences among allies about “the approach or types of weapons Ukraine should be delivered.” Those differences create bureaucratic delays, and the goal is to make delivery faster and easier.

“This new command will have a very robust mandate, so there will be no need for consensus on each and every delivery,” he said.

Financial pledge: Since February 2022, NATO allies have provided around $43 billion annually in military support to Ukraine. The upcoming summit is expected to extend this commitment for another year, laying a foundation for future support.

Immediate weapon deliveries: Announcements on delivering more weapons and ammunition, particularly air defense systems, are anticipated at the summit to bolster Ukraine’s defense.

While the secretary general did not offer specifics, a senior U.S. official indicated that announcements can be expected from NATO allies this week regarding the provision of F-16 aircraft to Ukraine.

Bilateral security agreements: Twenty NATO allies will have signed bilateral security agreements with Ukraine by the start of the summit, offering additional security guarantees and reinforcing collaborative defense efforts.

Interoperability: Efforts are underway to align Ukrainian armed forces with NATO standards, including a joint training center in Poland and programs on military acquisitions and procurement.

Hungary won’t participate or obstruct

Stoltenberg addressed concerns about Hungary’s stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine and its potential to block NATO decisions.

He recounted a recent visit to Budapest, where he secured an agreement with Prime Minister Viktor Orban ensuring that Hungary will not obstruct the proposed support measures for Ukraine.

Budapest will not participate in the new NATO security assistance command for Ukraine but will fulfill its other NATO obligations and contribute to the common budget, Stoltenberg said.

The secretary general highlighted NATO’s diverse engagements with Moscow even after the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

He noted a recent conversation between U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, underscoring the routine nature of such contacts.

Stoltenberg said NATO must function cohesively in developing new defense strategies, emphasizing unity despite differing perspectives, such as those represented by leaders like Orban.

Future relationship with the US

Stoltenberg is confident that the United States would continue to be a staunch NATO ally regardless of future election outcomes, attributing past criticisms by former president Donald Trump primarily to defense spending issues rather than NATO itself.

He emphasized that any secretary general must be able to work with all leaders within the alliance, comparing NATO to a big family that every now and then has arguments and disagreements.

Stoltenberg recounted his experience working with presidents Barak Obama, Trump, and Joe Biden, noting that despite differing political leadership, the U.S. has remained a steadfast and committed NATO ally.

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