Leaders attending a closed-door snap NATO summit heard an impassioned call from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for new Western security assistance, according to a senior US administration official who heard the remarks.
The Ukrainian leader stopped short of issuing his usual calls for a no-fly zone or NATO membership. But Zelensky in a virtual address spoke "very eloquently" to describe his military’s efforts to defend Ukrainian citizens and democratic values, the official said.
The virtual address from Zelensky kicked off the summit, which is taking place in private. US President Joe Biden spoke next, laying out the coordinated Western approach on sanctions, reiterating strong support for Ukraine and reinforcing US commitment to NATO.
Biden "laid out a number of issues that the alliance is going to have to grapple with" in the coming months before the NATO alliance meets again at the end of June in Spain, the official said.
That includes finalizing force posture changes on NATO’s eastern flank.
The mood inside the NATO summit was "sober, resolute, and incredibly united," the official said.
"There was a very strong sense that we are facing a significant historical moment, and very strong support from all the leaders who spoke about the need to defend our democracy," the official said.
Other topics that arose included China, and a collective desire to avoid Beijing supporting Russia in its invasion.
And leaders discussed contingencies should Russia use a chemical or nuclear weapon on the battlefield in Ukraine.
"I think there is a recognition that NATO needs to continue a lot of the good ongoing work to be prepared to respond to various contingencies," the official said.