President Joe Biden kicked off the NATO summit in Washington with a speech Tuesday where he reiterated the importance of the alliance to the United States.

In his speech, Biden touted the delivery of new air defenses to Ukraine and credited his administration with bolstering NATO in the aftermath of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

“Make no mistake: Russia is failing in this war,” Biden said. “When this senseless war began, Ukraine was a free country. Today, it’s still a free country, and the war will end with Ukraine remaining a free and independent country.”

The timing matters

Biden’s NATO summit address comes as critics on both sides of the aisle worry about his mental acuity after a poor June debate performance, according to Politico.

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The summit, three days long, may be one of Biden’s last appearances at an international forum before Election Day, The Associated Press reported. The Republican National Convention in Milwaukee is next week.

According to the AP, along with quelling concerns over whether he can compete with former President Donald Trump in the race for the White House, Biden hopes to convince voters that Trump would “turn his back” on NATO if he were elected again.

America’s NATO allies are preparing for the possibility of a second Trump administration and ramping up weapons production unlike the surprise win of Trump in 2016, Politico reported.

NATO and Ukraine

Along with affirming the U.S. commitment to NATO, Biden announced a “historic” donation of air defense equipment to Ukraine in his speech, according to Fox News. The U.S. is joining Germany, the Netherlands, Romania and Italy in providing the war-torn nation with equipment for five air defense systems.

Help with air defense was one of the biggest requests from Ukraine for this summit, Politico reported. The NATO effort to supply Ukraine with new systems will take priority over other NATO projects.

According to Politico, the U.S. spearheaded an effort to convince skeptical NATO members to be on board with sending Ukraine “sophisticated defensive weapons.”

“Our message to Moscow and the world is clear: Our support for Ukraine is strong and unwavering,” said a joint statement from the U.S. and four other nations involved with the project.

Biden also spoke of the aftermath of Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine in his speech and took credit for expanding NATO to include both Finland and Sweden, The Associated Press reported.

“Today, NATO is more powerful than ever,” Biden said Tuesday. “It’s good that we’re stronger than ever because this moment in history calls for our collective strength.”

The world watching

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Some world leaders have weighed in on Biden’s health in the lead up to the NATO summit, according to The Associated Press.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Tuesday before arriving at the summit from Berlin that he’s confident in Biden and not worried about his health. New British Prime Minister Keir Starmer has also said after recent communication that he has no concerns about Biden’s mental acuity, the AP reported.

However, the head of Italy’s anti-migrant League Party, deputy premier Matteo Salvini, said Biden’s health “does not seem very good.”

The summit is set to include all 32 NATO countries and Pacific partners Australia, Japan and New Zealand and also Ukraine. Biden is slated to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Thursday.

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