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A small group of Western allies is engaged in “advanced” and “frantic last-minute” negotiations to finalize a declaration of security assurance for Ukraine ahead of this week’s NATO summit in Lithuania, according to four officials familiar with the talks. .
For weeks the US, UK, France and Germany have been discussing the issue with kyiv and have also reached out to other allies in NATO, the EU and the G7. The idea is to create an “umbrella” for all countries willing to provide continued military aid to Ukraine, even if the details vary from country to country.
The effort is part of broader negotiations at NATO and among various groups of nations about how Western allies should show their long-term support for Ukraine.
kyiv wants to join NATO as soon as possible, giving it access to the alliance’s vaunted Article 5 clause: an attack on one is an attack on all. But many allies within the alliance broadly agree that Ukraine can only join after the war is over, at the earliest.
So the major powers in the alliance have been working to see what interim security compromises they can offer Ukraine in the meantime. That view is not universal, however, as countries along NATO’s eastern flank push for Ukraine to get a faster path to ascension, even as fighting rages on.
The Western powers are aiming to reveal their general framework around the annual NATO summit, according to officials in Berlin, Paris, London and Brussels, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions. The two-day event starts on Tuesday in Vilnius.
“There is an ongoing discussion; it is quite advanced, in fact it is very advanced, and we are very hopeful that it can be concluded by the end of the summit,” a French official told reporters at a briefing.
A senior NATO diplomat agreed, telling reporters in a separate briefing that there are “frantic last-minute negotiations” right now “about how this should go.”
last minute details
US President Joe Biden is scheduled to meet UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday in London, where his two teams will meet to try to work out last-minute details, according to a second diplomat from NATO with knowledge of the plans. On the US side, Pentagon policy chief Colin Kahl is tasked with pushing the deal to the finish line.
Ultimately, the initiative may turn into promises to continue much of the aid that allies are already providing: weapons, equipment, training, funding and intelligence. But the intention is to offer a more permanent sign of unity for Ukraine, especially since kyiv is unlikely to get the firm pledge of NATO membership it wants at this week’s summit.
“It is basically a guarantee for Ukraine that, for a long time, we will equip its armed forces, we will finance them, we will advise them, we will train them to be a deterrent. against any future aggression,” said the senior NATO diplomat.
However, many details of this support would be left for later. The diplomat said that it would be up to each interested country to determine bilaterally with Ukraine “what their commitment will be.” And it could be anything from air defense to tanks or whatever.”
Last week, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz made an “appeal to all countries that want to support Ukraine,” saying they should “make decisions for themselves that will allow them to continue to maintain that support for one, two, three and, if necessary, necessary”. It will be more years, because we don’t know how long the military conflict will last.”
Aside from the security guarantee statement that the Western powers are finalizing, NATO is also working out new ways to help Ukraine’s military in the coming years.
At the summit, NATO will agree on plans to help modernize Ukraine’s defences, alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg said. told reporters on Friday. The plan, he said, will involve “a multi-year assistance program to ensure full interoperability between the armed forces of Ukraine and NATO.”
That multi-year effort will also focus on Ukraine’s military modernization programs and, like the “umbrella” initiative, will depend on individual countries contributing what they see fit.
NATO leaders will also create a new NATO-Ukraine forum, giving the two sides a space to work on “joint practical activities,” Stoltenberg added.
The broader conversation about ensuring security has inevitably become intertwined with the debate about Ukraine’s NATO aspirations, which will be high on the agenda when the leaders meet in Vilnius.
In the formal statement to be issued during the summit, “we will address Ukraine’s membership aspirations and that is something NATO allies continue to work on,” the US ambassador to NATO told reporters on Friday. Julianne Smith.
Specifically, the leaders seek to update the alliance’s vague 2008 promise that Ukraine will “become” a NATO member at some point. But they are not expected to offer kyiv the “clear invitation” that Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy Looking For.
Scholz acknowledged it last week.
“Certainly, we will also discuss the question of how to continue to deal with the perspective of countries looking towards NATO and wanting to join it,” Scholz said. However, he added, “it is also clear that no one can become a member of a defense alliance during a war.”
However, Stoltenberg struck an optimistic tone on Friday.
“I am sure that we will have a clear message,” he said. “We have to remember that the allies also agree on many important principles when it comes to Ukraine and membership.”
Jacopo Barigazzi contributed to this reporting.