Nato has doubled down on a promise to make Ukraine a member of the western military alliance, while vowing to step up support to Kyiv and help rebuild its energy infrastructure destroyed by Russian attacks.
Accusing Russian president Vladimir Putin of aiming to “freeze Ukraine into submission” by targeting its power and heating networks as winter sets in, Nato committed to keep providing support to help Kyiv defend itself and rebuild civilian infrastructure.
Foreign ministers from the alliance who met in Bucharest, the Romanian capital where Nato leaders first pledged in 2008 that Ukraine and Georgia would eventually become members of the alliance, said on Tuesday that they “firmly stand behind our commitment” to both countries despite Russia’s military aggression.
That initial declaration, despite not being accompanied by a formal admission procedure or any tangible progress, was cited by Moscow as one reason for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February. Putin has accused Nato of seeking to bring the former Soviet state into the alliance in order to station weapons there that could threaten Russia.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukraine’s president, has made membership of Nato — and the EU — cornerstones of his foreign policy.
The restatement of Nato’s support came as Ukraine reels from weeks of sustained Russian missile and drone attacks targeting civilian infrastructure. The barrages have heavily damaged Ukraine’s power, water and heating networks, leaving vast swaths of the country without basic services as temperatures drop.
“President Putin is trying to use winter as a weapon of war,” Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg told reporters at the Bucharest meeting. “To force Ukrainians to freeze or flee.”
The alliance’s foreign ministers also agreed to “continue and further step up political and practical support to Ukraine as it continues to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity and our shared values against Russian aggression, and will maintain our support for as long as necessary”.
“Allies will assist Ukraine as it repairs its energy infrastructure and protects its people from missile attacks. We also remain resolute in supporting Ukraine’s long-term efforts on its path of postwar reconstruction and reforms,” their statement continued.
Nato’s two-day Bucharest meeting marks an increased focus on long-term reconstruction goals rather than immediate solutions aimed at providing Ukraine with much-needed weaponry.
“I think in all of our systems attention is starting to shift more and more to both immediate and medium-term reconstruction, not in terms of shifting away from the immediate and continuing military support,” said an official involved in the talks. “It’s as well as.”
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, who joined the Nato ministers for dinner on Tuesday, said Kyiv needed air defence and power equipment.
“If we have transformers and generators, we can restore our energy needs. If we have air defence systems, we can protect from the next Russian missile strikes,” Kuleba said. “In a nutshell: Patriots and transformers is what Ukraine needs the most,” he added, referring to the US-made air defence system.
On the sidelines of the Nato meeting, ministers from the G7 group of leading economies and other allies held a discussion to “better understand and prioritise the most urgent needs of the Ukrainian people”, said German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock. The talks took place ahead of an international meeting to co-ordinate humanitarian assistance for Ukraine in Paris next month.
Separately, the US said it will bilaterally provide Ukraine with more than $53mn to assist with repairing power infrastructure damaged by the Russian attacks, as Kyiv races to patch up the electricity network before winter reaches its coldest period.
The money will pay for power equipment, including transformers and circuit breakers, said US secretary of state Antony Blinken.