'Trump-proofing' military aid for Ukraine to defeat Putin war to be discussed by Nato chiefs

'Trump-proofing' military aid for Ukraine to defeat Putin war to be discussed by Nato chiefs

Nato foreign ministers were in talks on longer-term military support for Ukraine including a proposed £86 billion fund and a plan seen as a way to "Trump-proof" aid for Kyiv.

Proposals by Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg would give the Western military alliance a more direct role in coordinating the supply of arms, ammunition and equipment to Ukraine as it fights Russia's invasion, diplomats say.

The plans will be discussed during a two-day meeting in Brussels, starting on Wednesday, that will celebrate the 75th anniversary of the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) and prepare for a July summit of alliance leaders in Washington.

"We need to shift the dynamics of our support," Mr Stoltenberg said as he arrived at the meeting.

"We must ensure reliable and predictable security assistance to Ukraine for the long haul, so that we rely less on voluntary contributions and more on Nato commitments. Less on short-term offers and more on multi-year pledges."

At the summit, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba was pleading with allies to supply more Patriot missile systems to Kyiv.

Western leaders have previously shied away from Nato taking a major military role in the Ukraine conflict, amid fears it could play into Putin’s hands as seeking to portray his invasion of Ukraine, into its third year, as a conflict with the West.

However, with Republicans in Washington blocking a huge military aid package for Ukraine, concerns are growing that if Donald Trump wins the US presidential election at the end of the year he could scale back support for Kyiv.

Mr Stoltenberg said ministers would discuss how Nato could assume more responsibility for coordinating military equipment and training for Ukraine.

He declined to confirm levels of funding and said the aim was for a decision to be taken at the July summit.

Under the plans, Nato would take over some coordination work from a US-led ad-hoc coalition known as the Ramstein group - a move designed in part to guard against any cut in US support if Donald Trump returns to the White House, diplomats said.

Until now, Nato as an organisation has focused on non-lethal aid for Ukraine out of fears that a more direct role could trigger an escalation of tensions with Russia.

Its members have provided billions of dollars in arms on a bilateral basis.

Diplomats said there was a growing view within Nato that it was time to put military aid to Ukraine on a more sustainable footing and Nato was best placed to do that.

Some said that threats by Putin that he would regard various steps taken by Nato allies as escalatory - such as providing tanks and other advanced weapons systems - had not led to retaliation against them.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who will attend the Brussels meeting, said in Paris on Tuesday that Nato was looking at measures that could serve as the "necessary bridge" to membership of the alliance for Ukraine.

Nato has stated that Ukraine cannot join while it is at war with Russia but that it will become a member at some point.

"Ukraine will become a member of Nato. It is a question of when, not if," Mr Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

Diplomats cautioned that discussions on the proposal were at an early stage and it was unclear whether the 100 billion euro (£86 billion) figure would be accepted or how it would be financed. NATO decisions require consensus among the alliance's 32 members.

"A fund of 100 billion looks very optimistic," a diplomat added.

The meeting comes as NATO is seeking a new leader to succeed Mr Stoltenberg, who has been in post for nearly 10 years.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has the backing of a some 90 per cent of Nato members for the job - including the United States, France, Britain and Germany - according to diplomats.

But he faces opposition from Hungary - which objects to his criticism of Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government - and a late challenge from Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

Some diplomats had hoped to choose Mr Stoltenberg's successor at the Brussels meeting but they said more time would now be needed. Several expressed confidence, however, that Mr Rutte would be appointed in the end.