Wed. Apr 24th, 2024

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky embarked on an unannounced visit to Lithuania, part of a strategic tour encompassing Baltic allies, Estonia and Latvia.

These nations, once part of the Soviet bloc and now integral members of the European Union (EU) and NATO, constitute President Zelensky’s initial official trip abroad this year. Emphasizing the significance of the Baltic partnership, Zelensky stated, “Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are our reliable friends and principled partners.”

The focus of discussions during Zelensky’s tour spans crucial aspects such as security, EU and NATO integration, collaboration on electronic warfare, drones, and the coordination of European support. Against the backdrop of heightened Russian shelling on Ukraine, the Ukrainian President has been urging Western allies to maintain military support. Recent in-person talks with officials from the United States, Germany, and Norway underscore the urgency of the situation.

However, challenges persist on the aid front. An EU aid package of 50 billion euros ($55 billion) remains stalled in Brussels due to a Hungarian veto, while the US Congress remains divided on providing additional aid to Ukraine. Amid these obstacles, Lithuania, with the largest GDP-based contribution, has committed significant support, followed by Estonia and Latvia. Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda has specifically called for additional air defense systems to be sent to Kyiv, acknowledging the need for enhanced capabilities.

Baltic leaders express their commitment to Ukraine in these challenging times. Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna highlights Estonia’s readiness to allocate 0.25 percent of its GDP for military aid to Ukraine over the next four years. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas emphasizes the importance of supporting Ukraine during these “crucial times.” Latvian Defence Minister Andris Spruds outlines Latvia’s commitment to providing continuous military equipment, training for Ukrainian soldiers, and expanding the drone coalition.

Despite promises of unwavering support secured during a NATO summit in July, fresh Russian attacks prompt Kyiv to push for expedited weapons shipments. A concerning decline in aid to Ukraine between August and October 2023, reaching its lowest point since the war’s onset, underscores the challenges. The outlook remains uncertain as pending aid commitments, particularly from the EU, await approval, while aid from the US has been on the decline, as reported by the Kiel Institute. The situation calls for concerted efforts to bolster Ukraine’s resilience in the face of ongoing aggression.

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