NATO defense ministers agree to new Ukraine security assistance, training

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg (L) said Friday NATO defense ministers have agreed to a new security assistance and training plan for Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky (R) with Stoltenberg in Kyiv, Ukraine, Sept. 28, 2023. File Photo by Ukrainian President Press Office/UPI

June 14 (UPI) -- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday that alliance defense ministers have agreed to a new plan for coordination of security assistance and training for Ukraine.

Under the plan nearly 700 NATO personnel will organize and coordinate both training and military equipment donations to Ukraine as it defends against Russia's invasion and occupation.

"This will allow NATO leaders to launch this effort at the Washington Summit in July, putting our support to Ukraine on a firmer footing for years to come," Stoltenberg said in a statement.

The new coordination effort for Ukraine support will include a command established in Wiesbaden, Germany under a 3-star General reporting to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe.

"NATO will oversee training of Ukrainian armed forces at training facilities in Allied countries, support Ukraine through the planning and coordination of donations; manage transfer and repair of equipment, provide support to the long-term development of Ukraine's Armed Forces," Stoltenberg said in a press conference.

He added that these efforts don't amount to NATO being a party to the conflict. But he said they will enhance NATO support for Ukraine "to uphold its right to self-defense."

In a two-day meeting, NATO defense ministers also covered a wide array of responses to Russia's aggression that included strengthening intelligence exchanges, greater protection of critical infrastructure both undersea and cyber and ways to further restrict Russian intelligence operatives.

Stoltenberg said NATO defense ministers are addressing what he described as "the ongoing campaign of hostile acts that Russia is conducting against Allies."

He said those include a surge of cyber-attacks, using migration as a weapon to try to destabilize NATO allies as well as sabotage, arson and more.

"There have been several arrests across the Alliance, in United Kingdom, in Poland, in Germany and in other -in the Baltic countries," Stoltenberg told reporters. "All people that are accused of working with Russian intelligence services, to conduct sabotage against infrastructure, and other facilities in our countries."

NATO's military deterrence, Stoltenberg said, is strong with 500,000 troops "at high readiness across all domains, significantly more than the goal that was set at the 2022 Madrid Summit."

NATO has doubled the number of battle groups on its Eastern flank and conducted the 'Steadfast Defender' exercise that involved roughly 90,000 troops across Europe this year.

Additions to military readiness and deterrence are planned over the next five years with the addition of thousands of air defense and artillery systems, 850 modern aircraft and "a lot of high-end capabilities."

Efforts are also underway to beef up defense-industrial bases and to continually adapt nuclear capabilities.

Responding to reporter questions Stoltenberg said NATO allies will deliver more advanced air defense system to Ukraine including Patriots as well as SAMP/Ts from Italy.

"Russia needs to understand that they have to stop their aggression against Ukraine," Stoltenberg said. "And I strongly believe that the stronger our military support to Ukraine is and the more committed we are for long term, the sooner President Putin will understand that and the sooner we can have a lasting peace."