NATO foreign ministers organize winter aid for Ukraine. Russia keeps bombing. More weapons are not on the agenda. Your own defense should be strengthened. Bernd Riegert from Bucharest.

The meeting of the foreign ministers of the world’s largest military alliance is not about arms deliveries to Ukraine, which is being attacked by Russia, but about so-called “winter aid”, i.e. blankets, tents, warm clothing, generators, transformers and jammers to ward off drones.

“NATO only supplies non-lethal equipment,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg emphasized before the Bucharest meeting. Weapons can and should only be supplied by the individual member states of NATO, not by the Alliance as an organization.

Then it could be considered a war party. The military alliance wants to avoid an open confrontation with Russia and its ruler Vladimir Putin. Secretary General Stoltenberg is convinced that Russia is not planning an attack on NATO territory.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, visiting Kyiv with six Baltic and Nordic counterparts on Monday, believes more tanks, anti-aircraft systems and other heavy weapons are needed to lead Ukraine to victory against aggressor Russia. “Keep calm and give tanks!” Landsbergis tweeted after his visit to Ukraine.

In an interview with DW, the Lithuanian foreign minister said in Bucharest that electricity supplies had to be secured as a priority, but that more weapons were also needed. “We need tank supplies to Ukraine,” Landsbergis said. These are important in order to turn the tide of war in Ukraine’s favour.

However, concrete commitments for further heavy weapons cannot be expected at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting. This is exactly what Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, who is attending a dinner at the monstrous post-communist Marble Palace in Bucharest, will demand.

In Bucharest, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock wants to focus on practical winter aid, which should enable the people of Ukraine to get through this winter. When reporters ask about more weapons from Germany, she evasively refers to what Germany has already delivered, including a modern Iris-T defense system.

Three more are to follow next year. “We are witnessing in a brutal way that the Russian President is now using cold as a weapon of war. A brutal break not only with international law, but also with our civilisation,” declared the Foreign Minister. She comes together with her colleagues as friends, as fellow Ukrainians.

“If you ask yourself how long you could endure with your family, with your small children, without electricity, without water, without heat at 2 degrees, or -2 degrees or -12 degrees – then you can imagine what the people in Ukraine is imminent.” According to Baerbock, Russian terror began just 250 kilometers from Bucharest.

Germany has pledged 150 million euros for winter aid. At a spontaneously scheduled meeting of the largest Western industrialized countries and around 15 NATO partners, Annalena Baerbock, who is currently Chair of the G7, wants to collect as many donations as possible for Ukraine. Efforts must be coordinated. The US has announced a larger winter aid package.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on the individual member states to step up their efforts to repair the damage caused by Russian attacks on infrastructure.

“We need to do more to restore gas and electricity supplies, but we also need to provide more air defense systems. The systems that have already been delivered must be maintained. The Allies must provide spare parts and, above all, ammunition,” Stoltenberg demanded.

According to NATO diplomats, the problem for many NATO countries is that the depots are slowly running out and new shells for howitzers, Iris-T and Patriot cannot be reproduced as quickly as the Ukrainian armed forces have to fire them. You also have to think about your own ability to defend yourself and can’t give everything away, according to a NATO diplomat.

According to media reports, the German Bundeswehr only has a supply of ammunition that would last a few days in the event of war. Not more. The replenishment of the German stocks to NATO standards should cost around 20 billion euros. According to NATO diplomats, the problem is less money than the lack of capacity in the arms industry.

The chairman of the German Bundeswehr Association, Colonel André Wüstner, said on Deutschlandfunk that Germany must continue to deliver, but procurement must be much faster. Neither politicians nor the arms industry understood how the “turning point”, i.e. a fundamental reform of the German army and defense policy, was to be implemented.

NATO foreign ministers are also meeting in Romania to demonstrate that after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, the alliance’s eastern flank has been reinforced with four new “combat groups” in Slovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.

Four “combat troops” had previously existed in the Baltic States and Poland. These units currently each have around 1,000 soldiers and, according to a decision made at the NATO summit meeting in Madrid in July, should be able to increase to up to 5,000 soldiers.

To this end, equipment and armament should be stored in the countries on the eastern flank as a precautionary measure. According to the host of the NATO conference, Romanian President Klaus Johannis, this is happening too slowly.

“The decisions that have been made must now be put into practice. It has to happen now. In the event of an attack, we need to have plans about who will send which troops where. We can’t decide that at the last moment. We must not allow ourselves to be taken by surprise,” warned Klaus Johannis after a meeting with the NATO Secretary General. At the next summit next year in Vilnius, “bolder decisions” must be made in this area. You need the right material and people to defend yourself.

No progress is expected in Bucharest in the tug-of-war with Turkey over Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Above all, Turkey is demanding better cooperation from Sweden in pursuing alleged terrorists. All 30 NATO countries must agree to the admission of Sweden and Finland, which applied for in May.

The “okay” is still pending from Turkey and Hungary. As applicants for membership, Sweden and Finland already take part in almost all meetings of the NATO Council, including in Bucharest.

Ukraine’s membership is not pending. First of all, one must concentrate on the war against Russia. As long as it runs, membership is impossible, say NATO diplomats. Gabrielius Landsbergis, Lithuania’s foreign minister, spoke to DW in Bucharest in favor of Ukraine becoming a full member soon.

In 2008, at a summit meeting in Bucharest in Bucharest, NATO, then in a completely different geopolitical situation, pledged membership to Ukraine and Georgia – without naming a date. “The door to NATO remains open,” said NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who was Prime Minister of Norway at the historic summit in 2008.

Author: Bernd Riegert (Bucharest)

The original of this article “Nato wants winter aid for Ukraine” comes from Deutsche Welle.