NATO and the EU vowed Tuesday to bolster their backing for Ukraine to fight off Russia’s invasion and ramp up cooperation between Europe and the US-led alliance.
Longstanding designs by NATO and EU to forge greater cooperation have gained impetus from the West’s support of Ukraine.
“We must continue to strengthen the partnership between NATO and the European Union. And we must further strengthen our support to Ukraine,” NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said after signing a joint declaration with the EU’s top officials.
Countries in NATO and the EU — which share 21 members — have funneled billions of dollars of arms to Kyiv that have helped it push back Moscow’s forces.
The United States, Germany, and France have announced they will now also supply Ukraine with armored fighting vehicles — but Kyiv has pleaded for modern heavy tanks to be sent as well.
“I think that Ukraine should get all the necessary military equipment they need and they can handle to defend the homeland,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.
“This means of course, advanced air defence systems, but also other types of advanced military equipment, as long as it is necessary to defend Ukraine.”
Stoltenberg said Kyiv’s Western backers will meet next week with Ukraine’s defense minister “to discuss exactly what types of weapons are needed and how can allies provide those weapons.”
“This is not only about adding more systems, more platforms, more weapons, but also ensuring that the platforms, the weapons we have already provided, are working as they should,” he said.
Moscow’s attack on Ukraine has upended the European security order and spurred calls for the EU and NATO to work more closely together to protect the continent.
"The Russian threat is the most immediate, but not the only one.
We witness China's increasing attempts to reshape the global order to its benefits.
With the new EU-@NATO Joint Declaration, we are bringing our partnership to the next level."
— European Commission 🇪🇺 (@EU_Commission) January 10, 2023
‘NATO Remains the Foundation’
The two organizations agreed that NATO, backed by the military might of the United States, remains the bedrock for Europe’s security despite attempts by the EU to boost its role in defense.
“Our declaration makes clear that NATO remains the foundation of collective defence and remains essential for Euro-Atlantic security,” Stoltenberg said.
“It also recognises the value of a more capable European defence that contributes positively to our security and is complementary to and interoperable with NATO.”
European Council President Charles Michel agreed that NATO remained fundamental to defending the EU, but insisted a push spearheaded by France for greater European “strategic autonomy” was not dead.
“Making Europe stronger makes NATO stronger, because strong allies make strong alliances,” Michel said.
The efforts to expand the EU’s role in defense have sparked warnings it could overlap with NATO and worries from eastern European members who do not want to water down Washington’s position as their major security guarantor.
NATO and the EU have for years been talking about improving their coordination and Tuesday’s joint declaration was the third cooperation pledge agreed since 2016.
The latest version had originally been envisioned to come out in 2021, but was redrafted after the start of the Kremlin’s assault on Ukraine in February.
The two sides have worked together to bolster their cyber defenses and improve infrastructure to shift troops more swiftly around Europe.
They now say they want to step up joint work on protecting critical infrastructure, addressing challenges in space, and tackling misinformation.