BUCHAREST, Romania — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and top diplomats from more than 30 European countries are meeting in Romania to coordinate how the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will boost Ukraine’s war efforts against Russia during the harsh winter.
Officials are expected to discuss further arms shipments to Ukraine, as well as how to help repair the electricity grid Ukraine and defend the country’s critical infrastructure from the Russian army’s relentless missile, artillery and drone attacks.
A senior State Department official traveling with Blinken said on Monday that the United States plans to announce an amount of cash aid to Ukraine for energy infrastructure needs on an emergency.
The two-day meeting of foreign ministers is being held in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, a NATO member country that borders Ukraine.
It is expected to lay the groundwork for the alliance to continue helping Ukraine at a time when winter weather could limit military advances and while millions of Ukrainian civilians lack access to electricity and water due to the damage to infrastructure caused by Russian attacks.
Another State Department official said the Russian military is using missiles and drones to attack Ukraine’s transmission grid, including high-voltage transformer stations, because these are more vulnerable than power generation sites.
He estimated that 25-30% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure was damaged.
American and European officials say the Russian president Vladimir Putin it is trying to break the morale of Ukrainians by depriving them of basic services during the winter, when average temperatures across Ukraine dip below freezing.
The Russian military has suffered major setbacks from Ukrainian offensives in recent months, including being forced to withdraw from the strategic southern city of Kherson and the northeastern region of Kharkiv.
“President Putin is failing in Ukraine, and he is responding with more brutality,” he said. Jens StoltenbergNATO Secretary General, at a press conference on Friday.
“Waves of deliberate rocket attacks on cities and civilian infrastructure. They deprive Ukrainians of heat, light and food. It’s a horrible start to winter for Ukraine.”
Stoltenberg recognized the importance of NATO member countries helping Ukraine improve its security capabilities. air defense.
“I will urge Allies to further step up support, especially on air defense to Ukraine, but decisions on specific capabilities are still national decisions,” he said.
NATO countries have supplied about $40 billion worth of weapons to Ukraine, roughly the size of the France’s annual defense budget.
But Ukraine has run out of stocks, sparking a scramble to supply the country with what it needs as it replenishes the arsenals of NATO members.
Many western-made howitzers are breaking down due to the usage rate of Ukrainian troops.
This week’s meeting is also expected to discuss how to better protect Ukraine’s closest member countries, including Poland and Romania, from any possible side effects of the conflict.
The matter took on a new sense of urgency this month when a missile that NATO leaders said appeared to have been fired from Ukrainian air defense killed two civilians in southeastern Poland.
The foreign ministers of Sweden and Finland, who applied to join NATO after Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, as well as top diplomats from Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
At a 2008 NATO meeting in Bucharest, President George W. Bush he pressured alliance members to promise Ukraine and Georgia eventual membership, but without a timetable.
Officials say the two countries are still a long way from meeting the requirements for membership, but are considered NATO’s core partners.
Stoltenberg and the US State Department also said officials at this week’s meeting will also discuss the challenges challenges raised by ChinaRussia’s most powerful strategic partner.
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Mark Jones is a world traveler and journalist for News Rebeat. With a curious mind and a love of adventure, Mark brings a unique perspective to the latest global events and provides in-depth and thought-provoking coverage of the world at large.