Blinken leads charge in Brussels to shore up NATO backing of Ukraine
Stars and Stripes November 28, 2023
The top American diplomat sought to invigorate support for Ukraine on Tuesday as high-level NATO talks got underway in Brussels amid concerns about war fatigue and the durability of Western military backing.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said allies will recommit to Ukraine during the two-day meeting of NATO member foreign ministers.
“We will be strongly reaffirming our support for Ukraine as it continues to face Russia’s war of aggression,” Blinken said.
Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba also will attend the meeting .
The Russia-Ukraine war has sparked significant changes in NATO since it began in February 2022 with a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on three sides. Among them are new defense plans individually tailored to the defense needs along NATO’s eastern flank.
But the war also has stretched alliance ammunition stockpiles and tested member states’ political willpower to keep up the flow of weaponry, which has enabled Ukraine to battle a much larger Russian force.
As talks started, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said recent waves of drone strikes on Ukrainian cities serve as a sign of more fighting to come.
But the uncertainty surrounding future Western military spending for Ukraine comes at a critical time in the war, which has become a virtual stalemate.
In the U.S., Ukraine has emerged as a congressional flashpoint, with some Republicans favoring scaled-back support.
The European Union also has struggled to follow through on promises of ammunition deliveries, as Western militaries face depleted stockpiles. Meanwhile, Russia’s wartime budget shows no sign of decline.
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin approved a 25% spending increase for a $415 billion national budget that devotes a record amount to the military, The Associated Press reported.
Stoltenberg said allies are obliged to keep up support, not only for Ukraine but also for Western security interests in general.
“It will be a tragedy for Ukrainians if President Putin wins, but it will also be dangerous for us,” he said. “The challenge now is that we need to sustain this support.”
A Putin victory in Ukraine would mean an emboldened Russia and send a dangerous signal to other powers such as China, Stoltenberg said.
Ahead of NATO’s meeting Tuesday, Germany and the Netherlands announced several billion dollars in new support for Ukraine, leading Stoltenberg to believe that other allies also are ready to do more.
“I’m confident that the United States will continue to provide support ... because it is in the security interest of the United States to do so,” he said.