Mission unaccomplished: NATO struggles to name new Ukraine effort

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian national flag is pictured in front of the NATO emblem in central Kyiv

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Question: When is a mission not a mission?

Answer: When 32 NATO countries are trying to name an effort to coordinate arms supplies and training for Ukrainian forces fighting Russia's invasion.

Leaders of the military alliance are expected to endorse the initiative at a summit in Washington next week. But NATO has struggled to come up with a name that satisfies all its members, reflecting sensitivities over its role in aiding Ukraine.

NATO ministers agreed last month the alliance would take over much of the work of a U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group - also known as the Ramstein group - that began coordinating military aid to Kyiv after the 2022 invasion.

Some officials initially used the word "mission" to describe the new effort, which is expected to be under the command of a three-star NATO general based in Germany. They referred to it by the acronym NMU - for NATO Mission Ukraine.

But diplomats said Germany objected to the use of "mission", saying it could be seen as implying NATO would send troops to Ukraine, a move the alliance has ruled out to avoid a direct conflict between NATO and Russian forces.

Officials then came up with a new name: NSATU - NATO Security Assistance and Training for Ukraine, making clear what the new initiative does - although not what it is.

Other countries have expressed dissatisfaction with such an unwieldy name.

"All these abbreviations sound funny and don’t have political oomph in them," said a senior NATO diplomat.

With the Washington summit starting next Tuesday, diplomats are still pondering which name leaders should approve.

"We are still looking," said the senior diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. "We are now fishing for a good name."

(Reporting by Andrew Gray, Editing by Timothy Heritage)