| 29 February 2024, Thursday |

Blinken to pledge ongoing support for Ukraine at NATO meeting

The top State Department official for Europe stated on Monday that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will underline NATO’s continuous support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia in Europe this week, despite the fact that the war in Gaza continues to consume much of the Biden administration’s bandwidth.

The conflict between Israel and Hamas, as well as increased tensions in the Middle East, have created concerns that Washington would be unable to maintain the degree of military and diplomatic support it has provided Ukraine since Russia’s full-scale invasion in February 2022.

Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O’Brien also told reporters that Blinken, who departed on Monday for Brussels, will highlight the ongoing commitment of the United States and its allies as he takes part in the first foreign minister-level meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council in Brussels.

“This is part of the process of finding a place in the alliance, which we’ve always said is Ukraine’s future,” he said.

O’Brien said the Biden administration was confident continued military aid for Ukraine had bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress, which is considering a request for more funding for Ukraine’s defense alongside military aid to Israel and Taiwan.

Asked about a report by Germany’s Bild newspaper that the United States and Germany were quietly nudging Kyiv into negotiations with Moscow, O’Brien said Washington does not have such a policy.

“We’ve always said that this is a matter for Ukraine to decide,” O’Brien said.

NATO ministers meet on Tuesday and Wednesday amid ongoing tensions over Sweden’s bid to follow its neighbor Finland in joining the alliance. Turkey, which alongside Hungary is blocking Sweden’s accession, has informed NATO that its parliament will not complete ratification of the bid ahead of the meetings, sources told Reuters last week.

“Our point to our Turkish allies has been that there’s no reason to delay any further and we anticipate seeing some positive action very soon,” O’Brien said.

Blinken will also address the rising tension in the Western Balkans, where NATO is looking at increasing its troop presence amid tensions in northern Kosovo, O’Brien said, adding that Washington supports having a robust NATO-led peacekeeping force in the region.

“Having the north be secure and quiet is the key to making political progress on the roadmap, and on the two countries’ paths towards Europe,” he said.

Blinken will also represent the United States at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe in Skopje, North Macedonia, this week, O’Brien said.

  • Reuters