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NATO Countries Seek to Bolster Ukraine’s Future Military Force

US President Joe Biden, center, awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Graeme Sloan/Photographer: Graeme Sloan/Bloom)

(Bloomberg) -- Nearly two dozen NATO countries will pledge this week to speed up efforts to bolster Ukraine’s military and defense capabilities, even as the prospect of another Donald Trump presidency looms large over the alliance’s summit in Washington.

The nations, which include the US, UK, France and Germany, will commit to meet within the next six months to agree on a roadmap to develop Ukraine’s future forces through 2027 and continue to strengthen them into the 2030s, according to a draft statement seen by Bloomberg.

The overall aim of the so-called Ukraine Compact is to support Kyiv’s immediate defense and security needs as well as ensure it can deter future acts of aggression by Russia once the current war ends. The arrangement brings together allies that have in recent months and weeks signed bilateral security agreements with Kyiv, including Italy, Canada, Spain and the three Baltic nations. 

“NATO is good for Europe, but it’s also good for the United States,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday. “It makes the United States stronger and safer, because in NATO the US has something no other major power has — that is more than 30 friends and allies.”

The NATO members are seeking to display a show of unity over the three-day summit meeting as Russian President Vladimir Putin steps up attacks on Ukraine. The allies also committed this week to provide more air-defense systems, although many of the commitments repeated past pledges.  

The new agreement with Ukraine comes as North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders meet in Washington, where much of the spotlight, both domestically and internationally, has been on President Joe Biden. His every move and word has been scrutinized following a disastrous CNN debate with Trump that raised doubts about his fitness to continue in high office.

Stoltenberg tried to downplay fears of what a possible new Trump presidency would mean for the alliance. The presumptive Republican nominee previously threatened to pull the US out of NATO and more recently said he’d let Russia do “whatever the hell they want” to alliance members that don’t meet their defense spending obligations.  

“I expect that, regardless of the outcome of the US elections, the US will remain strong and staunch NATO ally,” Stoltenberg said on in Washington on Wednesday. 

Some allies worry about what happens to commitments agreed at this summit should Trump win the election in November and return to the White House. The former president has said he will seek a quick deal between Russia and Ukraine to end the war but has so far provided little detail of how he intends to do that nor has he said anything about future support for Kyiv.

Compact signatories will also commit to convening swiftly “in the event of future Russian armed attack against Ukraine following the conclusion of current hostilities” and provide Kyiv with sustained security assistance and impose economic and other costs on Russia, according to the draft, which could still change before it gets the green light from leaders.

On Tuesday, NATO allies promised five long-range air-defense systems for Ukraine in a fresh show of support, although the promise repeated some commitments that had already been made in recent weeks.

Denmark and the Netherlands said they were donating US-made F-16s to Ukraine and its forces will begin flying the fighter jets this summer, US, Dutch and Danish leaders said in a statement Wednesday. They said Belgium and Norway have also committed to sending more aircraft.

Battleground Stalemate

The commitments come as fresh assessments indicate the conflict with Russia is headed toward indefinite stalemate.

The latest assessment of the battlefield is that neither side is set to make significant gains, raising the possibility of a prolonged stalemate, according to people familiar with the situation. Ukraine has the resources to hold the line but not much more. 

One senior NATO official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity Tuesday, said Putin believes time is on his side and that the war will last well beyond 2025.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has pushed for a concrete and time-bound plan for Ukraine to get membership to NATO, something that Putin is dead-set against and NATO nations have been so far unwilling to provide. 

In a summit statement expected this week, NATO is expected to offer Ukraine an “irreversible” path to membership, provided it makes necessary reforms meant to clean up corruption.

--With assistance from Natalia Drozdiak, Daryna Krasnolutska, Jenny Leonard and Nick Wadhams.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

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