NATO members assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Wednesday that they would sustain military aid to his country as it braces for another wartime winter, even as Western attention focuses on the fallout from Hamas’ attack on Israel.
Defence chiefs issued the assurances as Zelenskyy visited NATO headquarters in Brussels for the first time since Russia launched its all-out invasion of Ukraine in February last year.
His visit came against the backdrop not only of violent turmoil in the Middle East but also political turbulence in the U.S. Congress, which has held up approval of aid for Ukraine.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was confident that members of the military alliance would continue to support Ukraine as it was in their own security interests.
“We have the capability and the strength to address different challenges at the same time,” he added. “We don’t have the luxury of choosing only one threat and one challenge.”U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin delivered a similar message.
“In terms of our ability to continue to support both the efforts in Ukraine and support the efforts in Israel as well, absolutely, we can do both and we will do both,” Austin told reporters.
After attending a meeting of the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group of some 50 nations that support Kyiv, Zelenskyy welcomed the assurances but acknowledged there was uncertainty.
“My question was … will your support be less than now?” Zelenskyy told reporters. “The partners say ‘no’. But who knows how it will be? I think nobody knows.”Zelenskyy stressed Ukraine’s need for more air defence systems – as it braces for Russian attacks on its energy grid through the coldest months of the year – as well as artillery and ammunition to allow its forces to keep fighting in winter.
Ukraine started a counteroffensive over the summer to try to retake territory in the south and east but has so far failed to make major breakthroughs in Russia’s network of fortifications and minefields.“The winter air defence is a significant part of the answer to the question of when this war will end and whether it will end justly for Ukraine,” Zelenskyy said.