Australia gives Ukraine more Bushmaster vehicles after NATO meet
PHOTO CAPTION: An Australian Army Bushmaster Protected Mobility Vehicle – Medium transports troops before a live fire scenario during Exercise Koolendong, Bradshaw Field Training Area, NT, Australia, Aug. 28, 2021.
By Kirsty Needham
(Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, attending a meeting of NATO leaders in Lithuania, said his nation would provide another 30 Bushmasters to Ukraine after a request for the protected vehicles, used to carry troops in frontline areas.
Albanese met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday, after speaking at a meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and its partners, including four Indo-Pacific countries.
"In today's interconnected world, Ukraine is not just fighting for its own national sovereignty, it is fighting for the international rule of law to be applied, and this is a struggle that has implications for the entire world," Albanese told reporters in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius on Wednesday.
The additional 30 Bushmasters, worth A$100 million ($67 million), brings a total of 120 protected vehicles supplied to Ukraine by Australia, one of the largest non-NATO contributors to the West's support for Ukraine.
The leaders of Australia, Japan, South Korea and New Zealand, who are NATO partners, joined the NATO meeting on Wednesday.
Beijing has said it opposed any attempt by the military alliance to expand its footprint into the Indo-Pacific region, and criticised NATO's accusation that China challenges the bloc's interests and security.
In a communique on Tuesday, NATO said China challenged its interests, security and values with its "ambitions and coercive policies".
"Australia is sending a strong message that we will push back against states seeking to change the international system by force," Albanese wrote on Twitter after his meeting with Zelenskiy.
A government review of Australia's defence forces in April said China was undertaking the largest military build-up of any country since the end of World War Two, "without transparency".
($1 = 1.4943 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Kirsty Needham in Sydney; Editing by Alex Richardson)