Australia will send 30 more Bushmaster to Ukraine, as Anthony Albanese repeated Australia’s commitment to the country in a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on the sidelines of the NATO summit.
“We are proud to provide additional Bushmaster vehicles to assist the brave men and women fighting for their home and their nation’s sovereignty,” Mr Albanese said.
“Russia unilaterally launched this illegal and immoral invasion and should withdraw its troops and end the conflict immediately.”
He said Australia remained “steadfast in its commitment to support Ukraine.”
A total of 120 of the protected mobility Bushmaster vehicles have now been committed to Ukraine, taking Australia’s total military assistance to more than $710m and Australia’s overall assistance to approximately $890m.
Ukraine has been asking Australia for a fleet of Hawkei protected mobility vehicles for months, but Australia has refused, saying it isn’t suitable.
President Zelenskky thanked Australia “for its support and assistance to our country.”
“We discussed the situation on the frontline, Ukraine’s defense needs and further cooperation in this area,” he tweeted.
“In particular, the possible expansion of military support with new types of armored vehicles and weapons. We also discussed the need for further sanctions against the aggressor state.”
The latest Bushmaster announcement follows the recent gifting of 70 assorted highly capable military vehicles, a supply of critical 105mm ammunition and a $10m contribution to the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund announced by Australia in late June.
The government earlier this week also announced it would deploy a Royal Australian Air Force E-7A Wedgetail aircraft to Germany for approximately six months from October to help protect a gateway of international humanitarian and military assistance to Ukraine. This deployment includes up to 100 crew and support personnel.
The aircraft will provide early warning in the event of any threats outside of Ukraine against the gateway for humanitarian and military assistance.
Albanese at NATO
Mr Albanese arrived in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius on Tuesday night, where he was welcomed by NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg.
“This NATO summit comes unfortunately, with the land war in Ukraine continuing. Russia’s illegal and immoral invasion continues to have a devastating impact on the people of Ukraine,” he said.
“But it also has an impact on the economies around the world with higher inflation, with cost of living pressures and with food security becoming an issue as well.
“It is a reminder of why we need to be engaged and to shape the future, rather than allow it to shape us, and that is why Australia is here.”
Mr Stoltenberg thanked Mr Albanese for Australia’s support for Ukraine in the war against Russia.
“To me that really demonstrates your personal commitment to the partnership between Australia and NATO, a partnership we really value because … regional security is global,” he said at day one of the summit.
“What happens in Europe matters for the Pacific. This is demonstrated by the ongoing war in Ukraine which has global ramifications.
“We are extremely grateful for Australia’s support for Ukraine, your military support, your economic support, it really makes a difference every day.”
North Korea missile launch
Anthony Albanese has condemned North Korea’s firing of a missile as leaders gather for the NATO summit in Lithuania, where the war in Ukraine and its affect on global security is the focus.
Mr Albanese and the leaders Chris Hipkins of New Zealand, Fumio Kishida of Japan and Yoon Suk Yeol of South Korea have been invited to the summit as NATO plans to open an office based in Tokyo.
The four held a meeting on the sidelines on Wednesday, just as North Korea conducted its first intercontinental ballistic missile test in three months.
The missile flew about 1000km before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan, according to South Korean and Japanese assessments.
Mr Albanese condemned the North Korea action, saying it showed the importance of like-minded countries to co-operate.
“Australia is here because we understand that in today’s interconnected and globalised world, what occurs in NATO countries also has an impact on the Indo-Pacific,” Mr Albanese said.
“We’re reminded of the interconnectedness around the world with the once again, egregious launch of an ICBM by North Korea.
“Australia condemns North Korea for once again breaching UN rules, by breaching the international rule of law, and with once again a provocative action, and we stand particularly with our friends in South Korea at this time.”
It’s the second time the so-called Indo-Pacific Four have attended the summit of the North Atlantic military alliance.
“What we’ve come to say is that our nations based in the Indo-Pacific, believe in the rule of law, that we support national sovereignty, that we support multilateral forums,” Mr Albanese said.
“Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia have been invited now to our second summit, to engage and then to engage with NATO members.
“What happens in one part of the world has an impact in our part of the world and our presence here is a reflection of that.
“It shows that the NATO members understand that and we certainly understand that as well.”