NATO Allies Struggle to Agree on Long-Term Funding for Ukraine

(Bloomberg) -- Several NATO allies are balking at committing to a specific multi-year spending pledge on military aid for Ukraine that’s aimed at giving Kyiv more predictability over the long term.

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Despite early enthusiasm for NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg’s proposal — where allies would spend at least €40 billion ($42.7 billion) per year on lethal and non-lethal aid for Ukraine — nations are now at loggerheads over how to make the spending commitment work for future years, according to people familiar with the NATO discussions.

The allies won’t have any problem hitting the €40 billion target this year — the US alone will surpass that with its supplemental package of $60 billion for Ukraine. But political and legal hurdles in several capitals mean that governments will likely need to reassess the goal every year to see if the commitment should be increased or reduced, depending on the situation on the battlefield, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Some allies are wary of formalizing the pledge with a concrete figure and simply want to promise to continue the same level of support, the people said. Meanwhile, others worry about publishing the precise numbers around their donations, amid concerns that could expose information about the true extent of their aid.

The multi-year plan was proposed in late May and is due to be presented to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy at a summit of NATO leaders in Washington in early July, After scrapping an initial idea for allies to commit to $100 billion over five years, Stoltenberg proposed the annual €40 billion commitment in line with average annual contributions since Russia’s invasion in 2022.

While many details still need to be agreed, including around the accounting, allies may be able to land a deal if the €40 billion in aid for Ukraine can be discounted against NATO’s existing pledge to spend at least 2% of GDP on defense, the people said. That, however, would risk cutting into allies’ own defenses, especially if finance ministries don’t agree to raise overall spending levels.

The donation pledge for Ukraine will be a key part of a broader package for Kyiv that aims to underscore the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s support for the long term and pave the way for the country’s eventual membership to the 32-member military alliance. In addition to providing more predictability, the pledge could also pressure some laggard nations to spend more to help Ukraine.

NATO allies are still hashing out wording for the leaders’ statement in July to describe Ukraine’s progress toward joining the alliance. Those discussions were difficult at last year’s summit in Vilnius when Ukraine was pushing for a formal invitation. Leaders then ultimately decided Ukraine would join “once allies agree and conditions are met.”

While an invitation is again unlikely this year, the US and Germany are pushing back against describing Ukraine’s membership path to NATO as “irreversible,” and instead want to portray the entire package as a “bridge to membership,” the people said.

NATO defense ministers agreed in June that the organization would take on a greater role alongside the US-led Ramstein group to identify what military equipment Ukraine needs. NATO will now also coordinate weapons deliveries to allies’ hubs, as well as training for Ukrainian soldiers outside of the country. Allies are discussing whether to establish a special representative based in Kyiv to oversee the efforts, the people said.

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