NATO summit pledges ‘tangible’ support to Ukraine

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Petro Poroshenko and David Cameron at the NATO summit. [NATO]

NATO demanded yesterday (4 September) that Moscow withdraw its troops from Ukraine, as US President Barack Obama and his Western allies vowed to support Kyiv and buttress their own defences against Russia in the biggest strategic shift since the Cold War.

NATO leaders made clear at a summit in Wales that their military alliance would not use force to defend Ukraine, which is not a member, but planned tougher economic sanctions to try to change Russian behaviour in the former Soviet republic.

The two-day meeting, hosted by UK Prime Minister David Cameron, was marked by the most serious east-west standoff since the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago and the collapse of the Soviet bloc, as well as alarm at territorial gains by Islamist insurgents in Iraq and Syria.

Western officials voiced deep caution about Kremlin talk of an imminent ceasefire in a five-month-old armed revolt by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, timed just as NATO was meeting and the European Union was preparing new sanctions.

Previous such statements had proved to be "smokescreens for continued destabilisation of Ukraine", NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters after the 28 leaders met Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

"We call on Russia to end its illegal and self-declared annexation of Crimea," Rasmussen declared. "We call on Russia to pull back its troops from Ukraine and stop the flow of arms, fighters and funds to the separatists. We call on Russia to step back from confrontation and take the path of peace."

Rasmussen said the alliance would provide strong support to help Ukraine improve its own security. “Our support is concrete and tangible,” he said.

The Ukrainian press quoted Poroshenko as saying that Ukraine has been promised by NATO countries the delivery of non-lethal, but also lethal weapons, including “high-precision weapons”.

He also said that the issue of Ukraine’s membership to NATO will be raised once the country makes the necessary reforms.

“When the country will answer to all requirements for membership, the citizens will decide how and when the accession of Ukraine to NATO could take place”, the Ukrainian Pravda quoted Poroshenko.

Ceasefire, peace plan

Poroshenko, whose forces have suffered a string of setbacks in the last week, told reporters he would order a ceasefire today if an agreement on a peace plan to end the war in eastern Ukraine is signed at talks in the Belarus capital of Minsk.

"The only thing we need now for peace and stability is just two main things: first, that Russia withdraw their troops, and second, to close the border," the Ukrainian leader said, adding he was cautiously optimistic about today's peace talks.

"At 1400 local time (1100 GMT today), provided the [Minsk] meeting takes place, I will call on the General Staff to set up a bilateral ceasefire and we hope that the implementation of the peace plan will begin tomorrow," Poroshenko told reporters.

Meanwhile, Alexander Zakharchenko, head of the main rebel Donetsk People's Republic, said in a statement his men would also order a ceasefire, starting one hour later, provided that Kyiv's representatives signed up to the peace plan at the Minsk meeting.

A NATO military officer said Moscow had "several thousand" combat troops and hundreds of tanks and armoured vehicles operating in Ukraine. The Kremlin denies it has any forces fighting alongside the rebels.

Sanctions cooking

The White House said Obama and leaders of Germany, France, Britain and Italy agreed on the sidelines of the summit that Russia should face "increased costs" for its actions.

A White House official attending the NATO summit said the United States was preparing a new round of economic sanctions, but progress towards a truce could halt new European financial sanctions that EU leaders had been expected to agree today. 

French President François Hollande said those new sanctions would depend on events in the coming hours. Diplomats said there was little chance of them being derailed, even if a ceasefire were signed.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, however, warned that while NATO members wanted a political solution and would talk to Russia about this, "We're also prepared to lend weight to our political demands by imposing further sanctions."

France, which has faced fierce pressure from Washington and other NATO allies to halt the sale of two helicopter carriers to Russia, said on 3 September it would not for now deliver the first of the warships due to Moscow's actions in Ukraine. Hollande said the deal was not cancelled or suspended, but a ceasefire and a political settlement were necessary for delivery.

>> Read: France suspends Mistral delivery to Russia

Russia warns

Poroshenko avoided public talk of reviving Ukraine's bid to join NATO, which had reopened a rift among the allies. Obama said in Estonia on Wednesday that the door to membership would remain open to states that meet NATO standards and "can make meaningful contributions to allied security", but France and Germany remain opposed to admitting Kyiv, fearing it would exacerbate tension with Moscow and could suck them into a war.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov underlined Moscow's opposition to Ukraine joining NATO, warning that attempts to end the country's non-aligned status could harm security. He accused the United States of supporting "the party of war" in Kyiv.

After a week of defiant statements from Putin, Lavrov said Russia was ready for practical steps to de-escalate the crisis and urged Kyiv and the rebels to heed ceasefire proposals put forward by Moscow on 3 September.

As the NATO summit was ongoing, Poroshenko's forces were battling to cling to the key port of Mariupol on the Sea of Azov, which is vital to Ukrainian steel exports. Explosions were heard close to the city, halfway between Crimea and Russia.

New NATO bases?

Eastern European NATO members, including Poland, wanted NATO to station thousands of troops permanently on their territory to deter any possible Russian attack.

But NATO members have spurned that idea, partly because of the expense and partly because they do not want to break a 1997 agreement with Russia under which NATO committed not to base significant combat forces in the east.

Instead, leaders will agree to pre-position equipment, fuel and ammunition in eastern European countries with bases ready to receive the NATO rapid reaction force if needed.

The Baltic states Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, the only parts of the former Soviet Union to be admitted to NATO, fear Moscow could meddle in their affairs with the same rationale it applied in Ukraine - protecting Russians. All three have significant Russian minorities.

So far, Western military support for Ukraine has been mostly symbolic. NATO leaders approved a package of support for Kyiv, pledging trust funds worth some €15 million to improve Ukrainian military capabilities in logistics, command and control and cyber defence.

A dozen countries will join an exercise in Lviv, Ukraine, later this month, co-hosted by Ukraine and the US Army.


In an official statement, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko said that the NATO summit in Wales was actually the first meeting in the history of Ukraine gathering the leaders of the five biggest countries of the world – the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the Federal Chancellor of Germany, the Prime Minister of Italy and the President of France. According to him, the meeting demonstrated resolute intentions on the support to Ukraine.

"There is an understanding that supporting Ukraine, supporting peace, stability and de-escalation of the situation in the East of Ukraine, they maintain stability of Europe and the world. It is not only the issue of Ukrainian conflict, it is a global issue," Poroshenko said.

The President of Ukraine noted that the parties had exchanged opinions in several directions. Particularly, he said, they discussed the support to Ukraine in the security sphere. "Today, the resolution of the NATO Summit will have a clear statement that NATO supports Ukraine. Crucial decisions will be made to involve Ukraine in the special program where four trust funds will be created to facilitate the resolution of the issues of logistics, communication, cybercrime and social rehabilitation of the wounded, he said.

According to Poroshenko, the parties paid particular attention to military-technical cooperation. The resolution will read that NATO supports resolute bilateral actions of member-states on the provision of military-technical assistance for Ukraine.  "This is what we were waiting for," he concluded.

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David Barneby's picture

What a Bunch of Fools They Are !!! US interference in the politics of Ukraine has been the cause of all the trouble there .
The EU seems to be the US whipping boy , with no policies of its own , just following the dictate from Washington .
The cold war ended more than 20 yrs ago ; yet Russia is still looked upon as the old USSR . Annexing Ukraine to the west for expanding US political influence , as well as corporate greed to exploit the potential of shale gas and oil , is not a justification for deliberately destabilising the country using CIA agents to stir up the riots , overthrowing the president and government . Ukraine is divided about 50/50 between west leaning and Russia . To decide that all the country must join the west was very wrong and shows the ignorance of our politicians and heads of state today .
Russia does not want a spying unfriendly USA sitting on its border as NATO , anymore than the US wanted USSR missiles in Cuba . East Ukraine is more industrialised , with Russian financed companies , the people of the east have close association with Russia and do not want that to be interupted . Without the west wooing Ukraine with much needed money , to join the west ; the status quo would have remained in Ukraine , No civil war , the country undivided , benefitting from the industries in the west . The US globalism has a lot to answer for , The US can do what it wants , go where it wants , establish bases where it wants , overthrow governments who don't agree with it .
The US has become the world trouble maker , Enemy No1 in the world today . NATO shut up , stay out of Ukraine !!!

Jay's picture

You are quite correct, even main street Americans have woken to the fact that their government is the greatest threat to world peace today.

Jay's picture

NATO risks being a genuine liability in this conflict if recent talk in Kiev of a push for membership in the alliance is serious. NATO expansion would play right into the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin and would be dangerous to Ukrainians.

One of the offers Poroshenko should be ready to make in any peace deal is a written commitment not to join any military alliance, provided Russia respects Ukraine’s borders. Former President Viktor Yanukovych, passed just such a law when he came to power in 2010. A guarantee to Putin that the commitment will remain would take the NATO casus belli off the table. Ukraine should offer military neutrality because it is the minimum Putin will demand to end the war, and the longer the fighting continues, the more territory Ukraine will lose.

More European sanctions? It's a safe bet to assume Putin will retaliate.

Regarding sanctions, U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said, "Once imposed, lifting sanctions without Russian concessions would look bad. Western leaders could be seen as condoning Putin's aggressive behavior and betraying Ukraine."

Putin wins again, amidst all the smiles and handshakes Petro received at the summit, he still came away empty handed. There will be no military equipment forthcoming, the best he can hope for is investments to rebuild his broken country.