Nato to develop $100bn Ukraine fund despite US concerns

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Nato is to start planning a $100bn military aid programme for Ukraine, according to the alliance’s head, despite the US urging caution over aspects of a proposal aiming to ‘Trump proof’ western support.

Jens Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary-general, has backed an overhaul that would see the alliance oversee a 5-year support plan for Ukraine and take over management of the Ramstein Group, which the US set up to co-ordinate military supplies to Kyiv from around 50 western countries

The proposal comes as western capitals scramble to find long-term structures to support Ukraine amid fears that Russia’s superior weaponry and manpower supplies are piling pressure on Kyiv’s frontline defences.

“Today we didn’t take any final decisions on what format we will establish, but we agreed to initiate planning,” Stoltenberg told reporters after a day of talks with Nato foreign ministers.

The US continues to want more information about Stoltenberg’s proposal and will engage on its specifics in additional meetings, said a person familiar with the Biden administration’s thinking.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken used his interventions during the Brussels talks to express some concerns about the $100bn fund. But he did not oppose it outright, the person said, adding that the US wants to discuss it more.

The US, alongside Germany, has long harboured concerns about an escalation that could drag Nato into the conflict, and resisted attempts to give the alliance a more direct role in supporting Kyiv.

But Germany’s foreign minister Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday said in response to a question about the $100bn proposal: “For us, it is essential that we pour the ad hoc structures into reliable, long-term structures.”

Germany and the US have “moved a great deal in recent months”, according to one Nato official present during the discussions.

Reception to Stoltenberg’s proposal was “mixed”, according to a person in the room.

Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia and Belgium were among the countries voicing support for the idea. Meanwhile Hungary’s foreign minister said Budapest was opposed to “proposals that might draw the alliance closer to war or shift it from a defensive to an offensive coalition”.

The US said that it plans to remain in control of the Ramstein military co-ordination group, officially known as the Ukraine Defence Contact Group. John Kirby, US national security council spokesman, said it had been “critical in bringing together 50 some odd countries to contribute to Ukraine’s security assistance needs”.

The Biden administration sees the effort to co-ordinate allies on Ukraine as an important example of America’s place in the world, he said.

“It is bigger than Nato, it is bigger than the alliance,” Kirby said, noting that the contact group includes Nato members as well as Indo-Pacific countries and others. “What brought them together is American leadership, what’s keeping them together is American leadership.”

Speaking after the ministerial discussions, Spain’s foreign minister José Manuel Albares said that he had voiced concern that the $100bn could duplicate other financial efforts — including by the EU.

He added “other big countries” also raised this in the talks. “What we have to avoid is duplicity, double accountabilities, counting the money twice, or buying or doing the same things,” he added. “The mood in the room was that we all want to make sure Ukraine has what it needs in terms of volume and in terms of time.”

Additional reporting by Alice Hancock in Brussels

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