The money from the Afghanistan Trust Fund could provide a stopgap, at least in the short term. It could also serve to ease those tensions within the alliance at a critical moment in the war – at a time when NATO unity is vital.
NATO officials have discussed the possibility of using Afghanistan’s funds for Ukraine for more than a month during a meeting in Brussels in October, according to one of the Western officials. The funds have been frozen and the coalition has worked out a mechanism to transfer the money back to individual countries or move it elsewhere, but it is up to each donor nation to decide how to use the money. Some NATO countries are considering using some or all of the funds for Ukraine.
Kyiv has been asking Western allies for months to step up their financial support – in the form of weapons, humanitarian aid and money to rebuild the country’s energy infrastructure – as it seeks to maintain its position amid Russia’s relentless barrage of missiles. tries to.
But donations to Ukraine in the last 10 months have affected the defense budgets of some smaller countries. And while the EU has pledged to reimburse individual nations for their donations, that plan has drawn complaints among some big donors, such as Poland, that the money isn’t enough to cover their rising expenditures.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, NATO countries have personally invested billions of dollars to support Ukraine, both with weapons and humanitarian aid. The United States has led $19.7 billion in military aid since the start of the war. balance in afghanistan account That on its own is likely not going to be enough to help Kyiv sustain its operations during the winter. But the money could help European NATO countries, which have smaller budgets, increase their donations to Ukraine at a time when their economies are struggling.
The US is not a participant in the Afghan National Army Trust Fund. But senior Biden officials have urged their European allies to continue helping Ukraine operate despite mounting financial pressure.
NATO spokesman Daniele Riggio said the process of returning money from the account to donor countries had already begun, but He did not directly answer questions about Afghan funds being used by the coalition to support Ukraine. The Afghan National Army Trust Fund is one of many such efforts aimed at helping Afghanistan that have been frozen, closed or restructured since the fall of Kabul.
Officials in the office of President Volodymyr Zelensky did not comment.
The proposed transfer of funds is the latest in a series of international agreements countries have slapped together over the past nine months to quickly arm and aid Kyiv, including efforts by the European Union. Neither of those agreements depended on previously allocated funds such as transfers from an Afghan account directly to Ukraine.
At least one country has already committed to Ukraine using some of the Afghan trust fund donations, while returning the money to national coffers remains a matter of discussion for several other allies.
The changing needs of the battlefield and the unpredictability of Vladimir Putin make long-term planning for Ukraine aid difficult.
“It is almost impossible to calculate Ukraine’s real needs in terms of both military or humanitarian aid because the nature of the war is so rapidly evolving,” said Samuel Charap, a Russia and East European researcher at RAND. But in the long run, “every little bit helps” in both the military and civilian society.
The main vehicle for keeping previously earmarked funds for Afghanistan is NATO’s Ukraine Comprehensive Aid Package, which was established in 2016 in the wake of Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. The account provides funding for everything from humanitarian and infrastructure projects to non-lethal military aid, and has become the mechanism through which the coalition assists Ukraine.
The Dutch have contributed $134 million to the Afghan account, and are planning to transfer at least some of it to the Ukraine fund, said Kaspar Soetekauw, a spokesman for the country’s foreign ministry.
“The Netherlands, like many other allies, has so far used money received from NATO’s Afghan Trust Fund to contribute to NATO’s Ukraine CAP fund,” he said, adding that the Dutch had already transferred $26 to the Ukraine account for fuel. contributed millions. , winter clothing, medical supplies and counter-drone systems.
NATO spokeswoman Ona Lungescu said in an email that the CAP fund is disbursing nearly $100 million worth of projects focused on fuel, medical kits and generators, noting that the work focused on “non-lethal” aid.
Last month Romania, Germany and Norway made “further commitments” to Ukraine at the NATO foreign minister’s meeting, Lungescu said, adding “more are expected to follow suit.”
Norway – which has donated $30 million to the Ukraine fund so far – is set to take over management of the Afghan fund in January, mostly a bureaucracy to help wind it down and oversee the return of funds to individual nations as an exercise. A defense ministry spokesman said that by law the $115 million earmarked for Afghanistan must be returned to Oslo’s own national budget before it can be reallocated, but Norway has provided millions in aid to Ukraine with an eye on the Afghan side. is of. The fund ultimately reimburses the government.
lithuania also indicated It intends to roll over $2.8 million in Afghan funds to aid Ukraine, buying equipment for Kyiv and adding to NATO’s Ukraine funds.
Others contacted by POLITICO stressed that regardless of the fate of the trust fund money, they remain committed to contributing to Ukraine.
Finnish Defense Minister Antti Kakonen said in Helsinki that the country’s donation of about $19 million to Afghan funds was still being discussed.
“We haven’t had any political talks yet about the future of that money, but we are helping Ukraine in many ways, including military aid, and we stand ready to support Ukraine in the future,” he said. ” of the Reagan National Defense Forum in California on Saturday.
He added that Finland is preparing its eleventh package of military aid for Ukraine, and while Finland does not disclose the contents of these packages, Kaikonen said, “We have taken into account that winter is coming. “
Several leaders have publicly pledged to continue supporting Ukraine in recent days and weeks, including by sending additional weapons.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a visit to Romania last week, “The main focus now is on supporting Ukraine, making sure that President Putin does not win, but that Ukraine remains a sovereign nation in Europe. “
Speaking to reporters at the Reagan Forum, Army Secretary Christine Wermuth said the US and allies needed to continue pushing money and weapons into Ukraine in both the near and long term. “We have to do everything we can to put them in a stronger position,” she said.
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