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G-7 leaders focus on Ukraine war in summit


Russian missiles hit an apartment block in Kyiv yesterday, and that added to the sense of urgency for world leaders at the G-7 summit today. It's being held in the German Alps, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy joined by video link. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith is at the G-7, and she joins us now. Hey, Tam.


SUMMERS: So what did Zelenskyy ask the leaders for?

KEITH: I got a chance, along with a small group of other reporters, to talk to National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan after that meeting that Zelenskyy joined. And he said that Zelenskyy and the leaders were able to have an extended back-and-forth via video feed about the state of the war in Ukraine and Zelenskyy's strategy going forward. And Sullivan told us that Zelenskyy expressed an urgency to end the war. He said the Ukrainian president asked for economic aid, but he was also looking for something very specific, especially after that missile attack.

JAKE SULLIVAN: At the top of his mind was the set of missile strikes that took place in Kyiv and other cities across Ukraine and his desire to get additional air defense capabilities that could shoot down Russian missiles out of the sky. So the president was able to be positively responsive to him on that.

KEITH: Zelenskyy's request for defense and economic assistance wasn't a surprise. And President Biden came ready to say that the U.S. will provide $7.5 billion in financial assistance. And Sullivan said that the U.S. is very close to finalizing a deal for a security assistance package that includes air defense capabilities.

SUMMERS: Tam, as I understand, you've learned a little bit about this package. What else does it include?

KEITH: Yes. So while Sullivan wouldn't get into the details, a source familiar with the package told me that later this week, President Biden is expected to announce that the U.S. is buying a Norwegian advanced surface-to-air missile system to assist Ukraine in its defense. And I was curious why the U.S. would look to Norway for this kind of system. And what I learned is that it's actually used in Washington, D.C. - this very type of system - to protect the White House. Mark Cancian is a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. And he described it to me.

MARK CANCIAN: What this system does is it takes an anti-air missile that has been used on aircraft and it puts it in a box and puts it on the ground.

KEITH: Cancian is a former longtime Defense Department official, and obviously he is simplifying a bit here. But that box includes a sophisticated ground radar system. And he told me that this makes sense to give to Ukraine because it will give them more range and a greater ability to defend against Russian cruise missiles. But it also isn't overly complicated. Still, he says, there are likely to be technical challenges, for instance, if the radar system needs repair.

SUMMERS: These G-7 leaders are meeting at a time when their economies have all been hit quite hard by the huge spike in energy prices, which is a result of the sanctions on Russia over the war in Ukraine. How are they addressing oil prices and inflation?

KEITH: The White House says that leaders are close to agreeing in principle to pursue oil price caps. And this is a new idea. It's an effort to starve Russia of a major source of funding for its war effort - exports of oil. Some countries, like the U.S., have stopped buying Russian oil, but those that continue to purchase the oil are paying really high prices, which essentially rewards Russia. Sullivan said that there are a lot of details to work out about how this cap would be implemented. That is not going to be worked out at this meeting. But those are things that finance ministers and energy ministers could start sorting out after this G-7 is over.

SUMMERS: NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith in Germany, traveling with the president. Thanks so much.

KEITH: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE PHARCYDE SONG, "SHE SAID") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.