Group of Seven talks were set to culminate Sunday with a dramatic, in-person appeal from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is pressing leaders gathered here to remain united against Russian aggression.
Zelensky’s decision to travel halfway across the world to deliver his entreaties to the world’s major industrial powers in person underscored both the unity and the uncertainty leaders find themselves in fourteen months since Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine began.
While Zelensky has been bolstered by ever-more-advanced weaponry – including this week, with US President Joe Biden’s decision to allow Ukrainian pilots to be trained on F16 fighter jets – there are fears that fatigue and political pressure could eventually cause Western support to wane.
Dysfunction in Washington, starkly illustrated this past week by deadlocked negotiations over raising the federal borrowing limit, also contributed to questions among G7 leaders over how much longer political support for Ukraine can be sustained.
The debt ceiling talks have been a “subject of interest” in talks this week, said Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, as leaders seek out assurances that the United States won’t default on its debt. Biden himself voiced optimism on avoiding default, brushing off statements from both negotiating sides as bluster and suggesting he expected a certain amount of posturing: “This goes in stages. I’ve been in these negotiations before.”
Biden is expected to take reporters’ questions at a news conference later Sunday, following his first one-on-one meeting with Zelensky since he visited Kyiv in February.
Against the nuclear backdrop of Hiroshima, which was obliterated by an American atomic bomb in 1945 during World War II, Zelensky’s warnings of potential Russian escalation will carry significant weight. In a message as he landed, the Ukrainian leader hinted that potential peace talks might be up for discussion.
“Peace will become closer today,” Zelensky wrote on Twitter shortly after he landed in Hiroshima.
Biden is also expected to unveil a new $375 million military aid package after world leaders hear from Zelensky, according to a person familiar with the matter. The aid package is likely to include new artillery, ammunition and rocket launchers, officials said.
Earlier in the summit, G7 leaders agreed on a major new sanctions package aimed at tightening the noose on the Kremlin’s war machine.
The picture was of utmost unity for a bloc that has been given new purpose by the war. It was less than a decade ago that Russia itself was a member of the G8, as it was known then, only to be expelled following its annexation of the Ukrainian territory of Crimea.
Now it is Zelensky who will join the leaders around the summit table, a remarkable turn of events that underscores the isolation of Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin.
Still, there were reminders in Japan of the ongoing struggle to coalesce the rest of the world behind the Western initiative. A number of invited guests to the summit, including the leaders of India, Brazil and Indonesia, have been more reluctant to condemn the war in Ukraine.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met Zelensky on Saturday, assured the Ukrainian leader he would do “everything we can” to find a resolution to the conflict.
“The war in Ukraine is a big issue for the whole world. It has also had many effects on the whole world. But I don’t consider it to be just an issue of economy or politics. For me, it is an issue of humanity,” Modi said.