Live now
Start time
Playing for
End time
Listen live
Up next
Listen live on

'US political junkie': PM Luxon talks after meeting US lawmakers

Claire Trevett,
Publish Date
Wed, 10 Jul 2024, 7:27am

'US political junkie': PM Luxon talks after meeting US lawmakers

Claire Trevett,
Publish Date
Wed, 10 Jul 2024, 7:27am

-Christopher Luxon is meeting US Senators and Congress members today, before Nato summit tomorrow. 

-Luxon will engage in bilateral talks with leaders including Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron. 

-The Nato summit will focus on supporting Ukraine, with New Zealand announcing $16m more in military and humanitarian aid. 

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has announced a further $16 million package for Ukraine on the eve of the Nato Summit in DC – including $4m towards a military drone programme.

Luxon released the announcement of humanitarian and military support on his first morning in DC where he has spent the morning on Capitol Hill, meeting with Democrat and Republican Senators and lawmakers.

Speaking from Washington DC, Prime Minister Christopher Luxon said it had been a busy start to the US trip already.

“Consistent themes, we have discussed issues with the Indo-Pacific region... it was a good chance to speak about Ukraine

He said it was really important to “deepen” the bilateral relationship with the US during his trip.

He said he was not disappointed that he had not secured a more formal meeting with US President Joe Biden, and said he was “sure” he would catch up with him.

“This is not a bilateral visit, this is about building a bilateral relationship... We are here at visitors to Nato”.

He would not say which leaders he would be meeting with tomorrow.

Luxon would not speak about his opinions on Biden and if he will “survive” the November election.

“I will not speak about the US domestic politics.”

Luxon said he believed the contribution to Ukraine would be “very appreciated”.

He would not say if the $16 million was the last contribution to Ukraine and he would “look into what’s needed”.

Luxon said other countries have “appreciated” hearing about the coalition government he’s leading and their “stepped-up role” across the Indo-Pacific.

Luxon said he was not worried about the blossoming relationship with India and Russia during the trip, and he would move forward with his plans to deepen connections with India.

Luxon said he had enjoyed the “stimulation” of getting in the room with congressmen and women. “I am a bit of an American political junkie,” Luxon said.

His visit coincided with a busy time as politicians returned to DC after the long July 4 recess.

US media on stakeouts were pelting after the lawmakers to interrogate them about the future of President Joe Biden. The lead-up to the summit has been dominated by pressure on Biden to step down as the Democrats’ candidate for President in the November elections – and by Biden’s return fire, disputing rumours he is unwell and saying he is determined to stay to try to fend off Donald Trump as he faces ongoing pressure. Biden has repeatedly said he will not stand down.

Nor could the senators escape it from visiting media: as he waited for Luxon to arrive, US Senator Jon Ossoff (Democrat, Georgia) was asked if he thought Biden had what was needed for a second term as PM.

Ossoff responded that he supported the President’s campaign for re-election.

Luxon greeted Ossoff by saying he had heard he was “an afficionado” of New Zealand – a remark apparently sparked by Ossoff speaking of his fondness for the country on a previous meeting with PM Jacinda Ardern in 2022.

Ossoff replied he was and would remain a friend of New Zealand.

“I’m looking forward to building a relationship with you and working with you in the interests of both of our countries.”

Luxon said he had had a good morning of meetings “and there are a lot of things we want to do to continue to deepen the relationship with the United States”.

Earlier, Luxon met with senators on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He is due to meet high-profile Republican Ted Cruz tomorrow.

However, it remains unclear whether he will get any face-to-face time with Biden beyond major events such as the Nato Summit dinner at the White House.

A new $16m Ukraine package 

Tomorrow Luxon will chair a meeting of the four Indo-Pacific countries, which is expected to be attended by Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

The Nato Summit will focus on support for Ukraine. Ukraine is the most urgent business at the Summit and a range of measures are expected to be announced over coming days. 

New Zealand’s extra $16m consists of $10m in humanitarian aid and $6 million in military help. A further round of sanctions against Russia is also expected to be announced in the near future. 

Of the military assistance, $2m will support military healthcare for Ukraine, and $4m will go to a drone capability coalition for Ukraine led by the United Kingdom and Latvia. 

New Zealand will have contributed about $130m to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion two and a half years ago. About $80m of that is in the deployment of New Zealand troops to help train Ukrainian forces from other bases in Europe – that deployment of 97 personnel was recently extended to mid-2025. 

“New Zealand understands that while we are distant from Ukraine, what happens there affects us all, and we are prepared to stand with Ukraine for the long haul,” Luxon said. 

The coalition’s aim is to supply tens of thousands of drones to Ukraine for use in the war. 

Ahead of the announcement, Luxon had tweeted about a Russian attack on the children’s hospital in Kyiv, saying “Putin’s gruesome attack on Okhmatdyt Children’s Hospital in Kyiv underlines his appalling tactics”. He said in Washington he intended to underline that New Zealand continued to stand with Ukraine. 

It is the first time DC has hosted the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) Summit in 25 years, and the timing ensures there will be a lot of focus on Biden’s hosting of it – from the dinner at the White House to the main summit event and press conference. The leaders inside will also be focused on Biden and Trump, due to Trump’s less enthusiastic views of Nato. 

It will be attended by leaders from the 32 member states, as well as Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

Luxon can expect formal bilateral meetings with a number of those leaders, including two who knew former PM Jacinda Ardern well - Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron, who partnered with Ardern on the Christchurch Call. It is uncertain whether new British Prime Minister Keir Starmer will see him. 

The Russian war on Ukraine will again be the focus of the summit - the recent bombing of a children’s hospital in Kyiv has been highlighted ahead of the Summit as reinforcing the need for support for Ukraine. 

Leaders are expected to sign off on commitments to maintain existing levels of support for Ukraine at a minimum, as well as for Nato to take over handling the co-ordination of that support. New Zealand is expected to make an announcement on further support, on top of its renewal of troop deployments to train Ukrainian forces until mid-2025. 

Luxon will also chair the meeting of the Indo-Pacific 4 – Australia, Japan, Korea and New Zealand. Zelenskyy is expected to attend that meeting. 

The Indo-Pacific 4 have only been invited to attend the summit for the past three years. 

Ahead of the summit, Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Ukraine had showed security was not regional but global, and pointed to actions of Iran, North Korea and China in dealing with Russia. 

“The closer that authoritarian actors align, the more important it is that we work closely with our friends in the Indo-Pacific.” 

He said the focus would be on flagship projects on Ukraine, cyber, and new technologies. 

Claire Trevett is the NZ Herald’s political editor, and is in Washington DC to cover PM Christopher Luxon’s visit and Nato Summit. 

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you