April 18. 2024. 12:19

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NATO to discuss long-term military support to Ukraine


NATO foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Tuesday and Wednesday (4 and 5 March) are set to focus their attention on stepping up support to Ukraine on a long-term basis, according to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

NATO members will discuss how to support Ukraine following Russia’s invasion while considering the medium and long-term goals.

“Our support is for the long-haul, so I expect that ministers will agree to start work on developing a multi-year programme for Ukraine”, Stoltenberg told the media on Monday (3 March).

Current assistance to Ukraine aims to provide the country with immediate non-lethal military aid, such as drone jammers, training equipment, combat rations, fuel, boots, medical supplies, explosive ordnance disposal equipment, generators, and ambulances.

Some of the alliance’s members wish to “expand” the current package for Ukraine, both in the scope of what it is used for and its value.

An “intensification of the package is the appropriate means” to keep offering Ukraine “capacity-building in addition to current non-lethal support to increase interoperability with NATO,” one NATO diplomat said.

Stoltenberg proposed the current fund be €500 million a year for the next ten years, according to one source familiar with the plans.

So far, around €150 million has been committed to the fund agreed on at the Madrid Summit last June. NATO allies have individually been pledging additional contributions to the fund, such as Germany (€40 million) and the Netherlands (€75 million).

According to people familiar with the discussions, other announcements are expected in the following days.

There is still a €450 million financial gap to fill to pay for the projects already ongoing, two NATO officials said, without including the pledges expected during the ministerial meeting.

The future package to be reshaped at the July Vilnius Summit could support Ukraine in new ways, including capacity building in defence planning, training armed forces, or investing in the Ukrainian defence industry, according to information shared with EURACTIV by NATO sources.

Since membership in NATO and security guarantees seem a long way down the road, broadening the alliance’s military support to Ukraine via the package would offer a guarantee for investment into Kyiv’s defence sector.

They will also discuss the consequences of the war on their national defence budget and the new commitment towards the 2% GDP defence spending target.

“In July, I expect allies to agree to a more ambitious defence investment pledge, as 2% of GDP is a minimum to be invested in our defence”, Stoltenberg told reporters last month.

Majority of NATO members still short of alliance’s spending pledge

While NATO members have ramped up their defence spending, only seven out of 30 allies actually met the alliance’s military spending target in 2022, according to the latest report published on Tuesday (21 March).

NATO-Ukraine Commission

NATO foreign ministers will also aim to demonstrate an ever-closer relationship between the alliance and Kyiv.

Today’s meeting will take place in a NATO-Ukraine Commission format. In practical terms, NATO officials explain, it will not differ much from the usual meetings since the beginning of the war, but it is proof that ties are close.

The Hungarians gave up their veto, blocking the meeting from taking place, after arguing for the protection of their minority’s rights in the neighbouring country.

Since the beginning of the war, NATO and Ukraine have boosted their exchanges, with Ukrainian ministers being invited to all ministerial meetings to update their partners on the latest developments on the battlefield and their needs.

Although Kyiv remains far from becoming a member of the alliance, Eastern NATO members wish for Ukraine to benefit from a membership action plan, which sets out a path to accession, while other allies prefer to keep their focus on urgent military support.

At their summit in Vilnius, NATO members are expected to give a clearer indication to Kyiv to show the relationship is getting closer but still leaves room for more reforms. “The trick will be to find a formula that satisfies everyone”, one senior NATO official said.