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NATO Defense Ministers Thrash Out Plan 06/13 06:12

   

   BRUSSELS (AP) -- NATO defense ministers gathered Thursday hoping to agree on 
a new plan to provide long-term security assistance and military training to 
Ukraine amid Russia's full-scale invasion, after Hungary promised not to veto 
the proposal as long as it's not forced to take part.

   The ministers are meeting over two days at NATO headquarters in Brussels in 
the last high-level talks before a summit hosted by U.S. President Joe Biden in 
Washington on July 9-11, where the military organization's leaders are expected 
to announce financial support for Ukraine.

   Ukraine's Western allies are trying to bolster their military support as 
Russian troops launch attacks along the more than 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) 
front line, taking advantage of a lengthy delay in U.S. military aid. European 
Union money was also held up by political infighting.

   NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who is chairing Thursday's meeting, 
said that Ukraine's beleaguered armed forces need longer-term predictability 
about the kinds of weapons, ammunition and funds they can expect to receive.

   "The whole idea is to minimize the risk for gaps and delays as we saw 
earlier this year," Stoltenberg told reporters. The hold-up, he said, "is one 
of the reasons why the Russians are now able to push and to actually occupy 
more land in Ukraine."

   Since Russia's full-fledged invasion in February 2022, Ukraine's Western 
backers have routinely met as part of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, run by 
the Pentagon, to drum up weapons and ammunition for Kyiv. A fresh meeting was 
held at NATO headquarters on Thursday.

   Canadian Defence Minister Bill Blair said that his country would send 
Ukraine 2,300 rocket motors, and that 80,000 more of the devices are being 
tested. "Pending the results of those tests, we intend to ship more packages of 
these motors to our Ukrainian partners in the future," he told reporters.

   While the contact group meetings have resulted in significant battlefield 
support, they have been of an ad-hoc and unpredictable nature. Stoltenberg has 
spearheaded an effort to have NATO take up some of the slack.

   The idea is for the 32-nation military alliance to coordinate the security 
assistance and training process, partly by using NATO's command structure and 
drawing on funds from its common budget.

   Stoltenberg said he hopes Biden and his counterparts will agree in 
Washington to maintain the funding level for military support they have 
provided Ukraine since Russia launched its full-fledged invasion in February 
2022.

   He estimates this at around 40 billion euros ($43 billion) worth of 
equipment each year.

   On Wednesday, Hungary announced that it would not veto the plan as long as 
it's not forced to take part.

   "I asked the Secretary-General to make it clear that all military action 
outside NATO territory can only be voluntary in nature, according to NATO rules 
and our traditions," Prime Minister Viktor Orbn said. "Hungary has received 
the guarantees we need."

   The world's biggest security alliance does not send weapons or ammunition to 
Ukraine as an organization, and has no plans to put troops on the ground. But 
many of its members give help on a bilateral basis, and jointly provide more 
than 90% of the country's military support.

   The other 31 allies see Russia's war on Ukraine as an existential security 
threat to Europe, but most of them, including Biden, have been extremely 
cautious to ensure that NATO is not drawn into a wider conflict with Russia.

   NATO operates on the basis that an attack on any single ally will be met 
with a response from them all.

 
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