Defense ministers from 14 NATO allies as well as Finland have signed a letter of intent to create a “European Sky Shield Initiative” that would bolster the alliance’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense. The ministers also pledged more air defense systems for Ukraine and strongly condemned Russia’s targeting of Ukrainian civilians in missile attacks carried out in response to the bombing of the Kerch Bridge in Crimea last week, an attack Moscow alleges Kyiv was behind.
The pledge to deliver more air defense support to Kyiv followed an address this week by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to leaders of the Group of 7 nations, or G-7, during which he asked for advanced air defense systems to protect Ukrainian civilians from Russian missiles. The G-7 leaders held an emergency video meeting a day after Russian missile strikes killed at least 19 people across Ukraine. And at the NATO defense ministers summit, there was strong condemnation of Russia’s apparent targeting of civilians with its most recent attacks, which U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin argued constitutes a war crime.
The ministers considered supplying Kyiv with various air defense systems, including Israel’s Iron Dome and the United States’ Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortar system. But these were ultimately deemed impractical for Ukraine at this time. Yesterday Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, hinted at what the U.S. armed forces will provide. “What Ukraine is asking for, and what we think can be provided, is an integrated air missile defense system,” he said after a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Control Group, a U.S.-coordinated group of 50 countries supplying arms to Ukraine that met on the sidelines of the NATO summit. “That doesn’t control all the airspace over Ukraine, but they’re designed to control priority targets Ukraine needs to protect.”