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NATO to Renew a Vow to Ukraine         11/28 06:20

   NATO returns on Tuesday to the scene of one of its most controversial 
decisions, intent on repeating its vow that Ukraine -- now suffering through 
the 10th month of a war against Russia -- will join the world's biggest 
military alliance one day.

   BUCHAREST (AP) -- NATO returns on Tuesday to the scene of one of its most 
controversial decisions, intent on repeating its vow that Ukraine -- now 
suffering through the 10th month of a war against Russia -- will join the 
world's biggest military alliance one day.

   NATO foreign ministers will gather for two days at the Palace of the 
Parliament in the Romanian capital Bucharest. It was there in April 2008 that 
U.S. President George W. Bush persuaded his allies to open NATO's door to 
Ukraine and Georgia, over vehement Russian objections.

   "NATO welcomes Ukraine's and Georgia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations for 
membership in NATO. We agreed today that these countries will become members of 
NATO," the leaders said in a statement. Russian President Vladimir Putin, who 
was at the summit, described this as "a direct threat" to Russia's security.

   About four months later, Russian forces invaded Georgia.

   Some experts describe the decision in Bucharest as a massive error that left 
Russia feeling cornered by a seemingly ever-expanding NATO. NATO counters that 
it doesn't pressgang countries into joining, and that some requested membership 
to seek protection from Russia -- as Finland and Sweden are doing now.

   More than 14 years on, NATO will pledge this week to support Ukraine 
long-term as it defends itself against Russian aerial, missile and ground 
attacks -- many of which have struck power grids and other civilian 
infrastructure, depriving millions of people of electricity and heating.

   "NATO will continue to stand with Ukraine for as long as it takes. We will 
not back down," the organization's top civilian official, Secretary-General 
Jens Stoltenberg, vowed last week.

   North Macedonia and Montenegro have joined the U.S.-led organization in 
recent years. With this, Stoltenberg said, "we have demonstrated that NATO's 
door is open and that it is for NATO allies and aspirant countries to decide on 
membership. This is also the message to Ukraine."

   This gathering in Bucharest is likely to see NATO make fresh pledges of 
non-lethal support to Ukraine: fuel, electricity generators, medical supplies, 
winter equipment and drone jamming devices.

   Individual allies are also likely to announce fresh supplies of military 
equipment for Ukraine -- chiefly the air defense systems that Kyiv so 
desperately seeks to protect its skies. NATO as an organization will not offer 
such supplies, to avoid being dragged into a wider war with nuclear-armed 
Russia.

   But the ministers, along with their Ukrainian counterpart Dmytro Kuleba, 
will also look further afield.

   "Over the longer term we will help Ukraine transition from Soviet-era 
equipment to modern NATO standards, doctrine and training," Stoltenberg said. 
This will not only improve Ukraine's armed forces and help them to better 
integrate, it will also meet some of the conditions for membership.

   That said, Ukraine will not join NATO anytime soon. With the Crimean 
Peninsula annexed, and Russian troops and pro-Moscow separatists holding parts 
of the south and east, it's not clear what Ukraine's borders would even look 
like.

   Many of the 30 allies believe the focus now must be uniquely on defeating 
Russia.

   But even as economic pressure -- high electricity and gas prices, plus 
inflation, all exacerbated by the war -- mounts on many allies, Stoltenberg 
would not press Ukraine to enter into peace talks, and indeed NATO and European 
diplomats say that Putin does not appear willing to come to the table.

   "Most wars end with negotiations," he said. "But what happens at the 
negotiating table depends on what happens on the battlefield. Therefore, the 
best way to increase the chances for a peaceful solution is to support Ukraine."

   The foreign ministers of Bosnia, Georgia and Moldova -- three partners that 
NATO says are under increasing Russian pressure -- will also be in Bucharest. 
Stoltenberg said NATO would "take further steps to help them protect their 
independence, and strengthen their ability to defend themselves.

 
 
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