U.S., Allies Vow to Protect Ukraine’s Infrastructure From Russian Attacks

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MÜNSTER, Germany — The Group of 7 nations announced Friday that they would work together to rebuild critical infrastructure in Ukraine that has been destroyed by Russia’s military and to defend such sites from further attacks.

Top diplomats from the countries have discussed sending more defensive military equipment to Ukraine to help it ward off missile and drone attacks by Russia that are crippling the country’s infrastructure, a senior U.S. State Department official said on Friday.

The diplomats, meeting behind closed doors, discussed the war and which countries had the right equipment to send Ukraine for air defense, the official said.

The Group of 7 issued a broad statement on Friday that declared positions on a wide range of issues — from Russia and the Ukraine war to China to Iran — and highlighted their agreement to protect Ukrainian infrastructure. The statement was the culmination of two days of meetings of foreign ministers in the old city hall of Münster, where negotiations that led to the Peace of Westphalia occurred, ending two 17th-century European wars in which millions died.

“We’re focusing more of our security support on helping Ukraine protect against these attacks, strengthening air defenses and ramping up defense production,” Antony J. Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, said at a news conference.

Diplomats also discussed President Vladimir V. Putin’s veiled threats to use nuclear weapons, the State Department official said. U.S. officials say the chances of Mr. Putin’s using a tactical nuclear weapon on the battlefield are low, but an American intelligence assessment that circulated in mid-October said Russian military leaders had talked about when and how to use tactical nuclear weapons, The New York Times reported this week.

In its statement, the Group of 7 denounced Mr. Putin’s recent hints at Moscow’s possible use of such a weapon.

“Russia’s irresponsible nuclear rhetoric is unacceptable,” the ministers said. “Any use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons by Russia would be met with severe consequences.”

For now, Mr. Putin has adopted another tactic: using missile and drone attacks to damage Ukraine’s energy grid infrastructure. U.S. and European officials say he is seeking to break Ukrainians’ morale by depriving them of electricity and heat during the winter.

To carry out such attacks, Russia has been getting drones from Iran, and the diplomats discussed imposing further economic sanctions on Tehran, the American official said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to give details of diplomatic conversations.

Dmytro Kuleba, the foreign minister of Ukraine, spoke by video at the group’s meeting on Thursday afternoon, although his country is not a G7 member.

The diplomats also talked about how to keep global energy prices from surging because of the war, the American official said. A partial embargo on Russian oil is expected to go into effect in early December, which could lead to a sharp rise in oil prices if the allied countries do not use a proposed price cap mechanism to get Russia to keep selling its oil to some of the Group of 7 nations, but at a lower price.

The group statement said the price cap would be finalized in the coming weeks. And it urged oil-producing countries to increase production.

That plea appeared to be a message to Saudi Arabia, the world’s second-biggest oil producer, which joined Russia in leading OPEC Plus to announce in October a steep production cut, infuriating President Biden. The Times reported that U.S. officials thought they had worked out a secret deal with Saudi Arabia in May to have OPEC Plus increase production through this year.

The Group of 7 nations struck a careful tone on China in their statement, in contrast to the more combative language of the Biden administration. The first line in the China section said the group would aim for “constructive cooperation” with China where possible, in particular on climate change and global health. The group went on to criticize China’s human rights abuses and its aggressions against Taiwan.

The group mentioned concerns about conflict in the East and South China Seas and the need for “a free and open Indo-Pacific” — language clearly aimed at China, though the country was not named in those sections.

The United States has worked to try to get European nations to take a harder line on China. Chancellor Olaf Scholz made a one-day visit to Beijing on Friday to meet Xi Jinping, China’s leader. He brought along German business executives, which raised concerns among Beijing’s critics about whether Germany was prioritizing economic ties with China over national security and human rights issues.

Mr. Blinken said the United States and Europe largely agree on the approach to China. “The convergence of the alignment on China,” he said, “is increasingly strong and increasingly clear.”

Sumber: www.nytimes.com

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