NATO foreign ministers have announced new support for Ukraine’s military in a meeting that has also approved a new interim quick-reaction military force of the alliance to protect members from Russia or other threats.
Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO chief, said on Tuesday that they agreed to activate four trust funds which will help pay to upgrade Ukraine’s logistics, cyber warfare, command and control and medical services, and added a fifth to support wounded Ukrainian soldiers.
“We strongly condemn Russia’s continued and deliberate destabilisation of eastern Ukraine in breach of international law,” said a statement from the NATO ministers and Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, who attended by videoconference.
Meanwhile, the ministers approved plans to set up an interim quick-reaction force to help the Cold War-era alliance to deal with new challenges of hybrid warfare and political upheaval, such as fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
At a September summit NATO leaders agreed to launch a “spearhead” force of around 4,000 troops by 2016 – but on Tuesday they decided to set up an even faster, smaller force to be operational by early 2015.
The ministers also approved maintaining measures designed to reassure NATO countries nearest Russia, Stoltenberg said. Such measures include stepped-up air patrols over the Baltic Sea and rotating NATO military units in and out of countries like Poland and the Baltic republics.
“We are protecting our allies and supporting our partners,” Stoltenberg said.
The question of NATO membership for Ukraine was strictly off limits, diplomatic sources said.
Stoltenberg stressed that it was up to individual countries to decide on their own if they wanted to join the alliance and that he would respect any decision taken.
Kiev’s new government wants to restart the membership process interrupted by ousted leader Viktor Yanukovich, but Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned against such a move.