The alliance marks strength – but that is not enough for Ukraine

At its anniversary summit, NATO is preparing for a prolonged war in Ukraine and a possible Trump presidency. However, Kyiv has still not received a timetable for membership. In order to deter Russia, the USA wants to station long-range weapons in Germany again.

The mood in the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington was festive on Tuesday evening. An orchestra played festive music, singers with heavenly voices sang songs about friendship and peace, and American President Joe Biden invoked NATO’s success story in a combative speech. He recalled that representatives of 12 countries had signed NATO’s founding treaty in the neoclassical building 75 years ago. “They knew that in order to prevent future wars and protect democracy, they had to join forces.”

Today, the Western defense alliance has 32 member states. The USA is also trying to involve partner countries from Asia more in the transatlantic security cooperation. For the third time in a row, delegations from New Zealand, Australia, Japan and South Korea took part in the annual NATO summit in Washington. “It is the largest and most effective military alliance in world history,” Biden emphasized. He also recalled that four years ago only 9 member states spent more than 2 percent of their economic output on their defense. Today, 23 countries meet this alliance target.

However, even the American president’s superlatives could not disguise the dark clouds hanging over the anniversary summit. The darkest cloud is still the war in Ukraine. The outgoing NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg made this clear in his speech. Western support for Kiev was “unprecedented” but never “straightforward”. Because it also entails costs. “But let us remember: the highest price and the greatest risk would be a Putin victory in Ukraine.” This would not only strengthen the Kremlin leader, but also the authoritarian regimes in Iran, North Korea and China. They all want NATO to fail. “The outcome of this war will determine global security for decades.”

Biden also tried to send a signal of strength to Putin in his speech. On the one hand, he confirmed the delivery of four more Patriot air defense systems from the USA, Germany, the Netherlands and Romania for Ukraine. In addition, Italy will hand over an additional Samp/T system to Kyiv. His government is also working with NATO allies to equip Ukraine with dozens more shorter-range air defense systems. “Russia will not prevail,” vowed the American president. “When the war ends, Ukraine will remain a free and independent country.”

The German Chancellor emphasized the role that Berlin played in the delivery of additional air defense systems: “Without Germany taking the lead, this step would not be taken now.” However, even this increase is unlikely to be enough. Kiev considers 7 defense systems to be the minimum and is aiming to expand to a total of 25 systems.

On Wednesday, Washington and Berlin also announced the stationing of American long-range weapons in Germany from 2026. The cruise missiles and later also hypersonic weapons are intended to be able to hit targets up to 2,500 kilometers away. This is intended to increase deterrence against Russia.

Also on Wednesday, the White House confirmed the promised delivery of F-16 fighter jets by Denmark and the Netherlands. “The transfer is underway.” Ukraine will deploy the planes this summer. Norway and Belgium also want to deliver fighter jets.

The final declaration of the summit on Wednesday also focused on aid for Kiev. As was leaked before its official publication on Wednesday, NATO is to accommodate Ukraine on important points. Although Kiev was denied a concrete timetable for membership at this summit, the path to NATO is now said to be “irreversible”. This stronger language alone is considered a success for Ukraine. The USA and Germany originally only wanted to speak of “a bridge” to membership.

Stoltenberg also wanted an automatic mechanism to guarantee Ukraine annual military aid totalling 40 billion euros. This would also protect support for Kyiv against a possible further term of Donald Trump. Now, however, the alliance is expected to decide that these funds must be approved anew every year.

In order to reduce dependence on the USA, NATO is also to take over the coordination of arms aid and the training of the Ukrainian armed forces. However, it took until this summit to find a suitable name for this task. Initially it was to be called “NATO Mission Ukraine”. But Berlin was against this because the word “mission” could imply the deployment of ground troops. The command is now to be stationed in Germany.

All of these decisions are not bad for Ukraine. Nevertheless, President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his dissatisfaction during an appearance at the Reagan Institute on Tuesday. He called on Biden to lift all restrictions on attacking military targets on Russian territory with Western weapons. The limited permission in the border region near Kharkiv has shown how effective such “deep strikes” are. “We are waiting for this step.”

Zelensky’s impatience is understandable. Without such attacks behind Russian lines, it will hardly be possible for Ukraine to regain the lost territory. While Biden has hesitated so far, Trump is even less likely to allow such a use of American weapons if he returns to the White House. Trump has promised to end the war in Ukraine as quickly as possible through a negotiated solution. And after Biden’s disastrous television debate against the former president, a second term for Trump seems increasingly likely.

By Editor