NATO is debating more Ukrainian funding as the pace of membership stalls

NATO member states are trying to agree on increasing funding for Ukraine, as there is no consensus on whether to offer Kiev a deadline to join the alliance.

At Tuesday’s meeting of NATO foreign ministers, they will discuss doubling their fund’s commitments to Ukraine, which amounts to 250 million euros a year, to 500 million euros, four diplomats said.

These financial pledges are intended to ease irritation in Kiev over widespread unwillingness within the alliance to discuss a concrete roadmap for the country’s NATO accession.

The ministers will also discuss how it could be extended to increase interoperability between the Ukrainian military and NATO forces, improve the standards and training of the country’s military, accelerate the transition from Soviet techniques to modern NATO techniques, and political relations between Kyiv and NATO work aimed at deepening people said.

Kyiv formally applied for membership in September, but the association has taken no formal action in response.

“There is this application letter on the table and we are ignoring it,” said one diplomat. “Okay, membership may not be optional right now. But we can take concrete steps in addition to or in support of it to show that we believe in it, in the long term.”

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NATO’s Comprehensive Assistance Package for Ukraine was established in 2016 to improve Ukraine’s resilience and security. Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last February, Kiev has been supplied with food, fuel, medical supplies, anti-drone equipment and amphibious bridges. But NATO officials say planned spending is already over budget.

Germany recently pledged an additional 40 million euros to the fund, and the Netherlands on Monday increased its contribution by 75 million euros to 100 million euros, more than double the next largest donor. Other member states, including the United Kingdom, are making pledges during the NATO meeting.

The drive to expand the fund is that some NATO members are blocking efforts by eastern states to negotiate Ukraine’s application to join. Many worry how this could help Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tactic of portraying the war as a conflict between Moscow and NATO, or that it could potentially escalate to allied countries.

“We will not be offering them membership any time soon. But we can talk about closer relations between NATO and Ukraine,” said a second NATO diplomat. “But we have a big funding gap for that. . . and we have to invest a lot in it.”

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NATO agreed in 2008 that Ukraine would become a member of the alliance, but gave no specific timetable or timetable for entry. Many member states say this is out of the question during war.

But Ukrainian officials have grown increasingly irritated by NATO’s lack of public rhetoric about its ambitions, which stands in stark contrast to its simultaneous pursuit of EU membership, which has received enthusiastic support from the bloc’s leadership, and Kiev has already met early membership milestones.

“We want some results at the NATO summit. We don’t just want a statement about the open door policy,” said Andriy Sibiha, deputy head of the Ukrainian presidential office.

“We would like to have something with concrete guarantees. I mean strong guarantees, not assurances, not agreements, safeguards. And we expect to receive a response to our official request to be NATO members,” he said in an interview.

That spurred efforts within the alliance to present a strengthened aid package at the alliance’s annual leaders’ summit in Vilnius in July, diplomats said. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told NATO leaders that he would attend the summit only if they offered him tangible benefits.

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“This is not a good look for NATO [when compared to the EU], and we have to work something out, we have to show willingness,” said the third alliance diplomat, who suggested a compromise solution, saying that the options should not be just binary “black or white; member or not”.

In addition to the financial aid package provided to Ukraine, the foreign ministers will also discuss the possible accession paths of membership alternatives.

“I cannot give an exact date,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Monday when asked about Ukraine’s possible accession. “But .

Source: https://www.ft.com/content/6172067c-00d3-4fb9-992e-bcb4264ea8c2