The ongoing war in Ukraine moved from being a distant, abstract conflict to something more tangible for the leaders of the world’s seven wealthiest democracies on Monday with an address by the embattled country’s president.
Volodymyr Zelensky told G7 leaders that despite their efforts to arm his country and to isolate the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin, more needs to be done — and fast.
He asked for better, more modern air defence systems, more sanctions on Russia and security guarantees, according to European officials.
Ukraine also wants help unblocking its ports for grain shipments, and Zelensky reportedly said he wants the war with Russia to end before the onset of winter.
For German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz — who is hosting the summit — propping up the sinking Ukrainian economy is also another consideration.
“We are discussing all of the topics on the agenda, especially in staying united in supporting Ukraine against Russia aggression and we understood that the policies of all of our countries are very much aligned,” Scholtz said coming out of a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Prior to speaking with G7 leaders, Zelensky emphasized, in his nightly address to his own people, that Ukraine needs an advanced air defence system — a point brutally underlined by the dozens of airstrikes on Kyiv and other major cities across the country over the weekend.
“We talk about this every day with our partners,” Zelensky said. “There are already some agreements, and partners need to move faster if they are really partners, not observers.”
Early Monday, The Associated Press reported that the U.S. was preparing to announce the purchase of an advanced surface-to-air missile system for Kyiv.
Sanctions ‘not enough,’ Zelensky says
Even though allies moved swiftly to impose an unprecedented range of sanctions, Russia’s economy has proven resilient, mostly because countries — including India — have stepped up to buy discounted oil from Moscow.
“This confirms that sanctions packages against Russia are not enough, that Ukraine needs more armed assistance, and that air defence systems — the modern systems that our partners have — should be not in training areas or storage facilities, but in Ukraine, where they are now needed,” Zelensky said in his nightly address.
One of the people listening to his address on the margins of the G7 on Monday was Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, one of the global leaders who has not spoken up forcefully about the invasion.
Modern weapons, Zelensky said, are needed in Ukraine more than anywhere else in the world.
Ukraine has taken delivery of a handful of rocket-based artillery from the United States and Britain, with promises of additional systems from Germany.
It has fielded 155-millimetre towed howitzers from the U.S., Canada and other allies, but Ukrainian defence officials and some in Zelensky’s office are asking for more and better systems, including 500 tanks.
Trudeau, Zelensky spoke on Sunday
Trudeau held what was described as impromptu call with Zelensky on Sunday, ahead of the Ukrainian leader’s address, where they spoke about “ramping up pressure on Russia,” according to a readout of the call provided by senior Canadian officials.
In his nightly address, Zelensky talked about the call.
“I spoke about this today with Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau — how else we can strengthen defence support for Ukraine and how else we can increase the pressure of sanctions on Russia. I thanked Justin for the help already provided — one of the most tangible,” he said.
Trudeau filled in Zelensky on the kind of discussions that went on at the Commonwealth Summit late last week, where Canada and Britain tried to convince reluctant members of the organization of mostly former British colonies to get more firmly behind Ukraine and to condemn Russia.
The Commonwealth’s final communiqué did not contain a full-throated denunciation of Moscow’s invasion, although it did “note” the United Nations resolution from March that took Russia to task.
G7 leaders are also set over the next day or so to formally announce an agreement to pursue a price cap on Russian oil, raise tariffs on Russian goods and impose new sanctions on hundreds of officials and entities supporting the four-month-long war.
G7 leaders announce global infrastructure project
The war in Ukraine has consumed a lot of political oxygen and time for the G7 leaders, who appeared at times to be struggling to put other initiatives in the spotlight.
The U.S. launched on Sunday what is known as the Partnership for Global Infrastructure, a multibillion-dollar program meant to help low-income countries build roads, bridges and airports to improve their economies. It’s meant to be a rival to China’s so-called Belt and Road initiative.
Beijing’s colossal infrastructure investment is said by its supporters as having the possibility of ushering in a new era of trade and growth for economies in Asia and beyond. But skeptics believe that China is laying a debt trap for borrowing governments.
“Let communities around the world see themselves and see for themselves the concrete benefits of partnering with democracies,” U.S. President Joe Biden said after announcing the plan.
“Because when democracies demonstrate what we can do, all that we have to offer, I have no doubt that we’ll win the competition every time.”