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NATO vacillates between supporting Israel and Ukraine

Defence ministers flew to the NATO meeting in Brussels with the original intention of discussing support for Ukraine, but the vector of discussions may have changed dramatically due to the military conflict in the Middle East, according to Politico.

The Israeli-Palestinian armed standoff, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians, demands an urgent solution from NATO. Hamas’ surprise attacks on Israel late last week led the Israeli government to vow an all-out retaliatory strike in the Gaza Strip. The country’s army summoned 300,000 reservists in 48 hours.

The military action comes at a time when Ukraine most needs to step up further support from NATO countries at the first meeting of defence ministers since a July summit of NATO leaders that has promised security measures and military support for Ukraine.

Oleksandr Merezhko, chairman of the Ukrainian parliament’s committee on foreign policy, acknowledged his compatriots’ “fears” about whether the West could focus on the Russian-Ukrainian war while dealing with the evolving situation between Israel and Hamas.

“I can only speak for myself. Yes, there are such fears. But, at the same time, I think that in the end it will not be a problem, because the USA is such a powerful country in economic and military terms.”

Ukraine’s newly appointed Defence Minister Rustem Umerov hopes that the attention of his NATO counterparts will not be diverted to the Israeli conflict. A NATO diplomat, who wished to remain anonymous, stated:

I would be surprised if the situation in the Middle East isn’t mentioned at the meeting.

His counterpart claimed to feel more interest in what US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin was going to say. Although the White House’s position is that the US can handle two regional crises simultaneously, the level of scepticism among the public over aid to Ukraine has been steadily rising.

Israel is facing existential threat. Any funding for Ukraine should be redirected to Israel immediately.

US officials are trying to allay Ukraine’s anxieties by pointing out that the two countries have different needs as they face very different threats. US Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith:

“I suspect the United States will be able to stay focused on our partnership and commitment to Israel’s security, while also meeting our commitments and promise to continue supporting Ukraine as it defends its territory.”

Ukraine will continue to be the focus of this week’s NATO meeting. Smith stated:

I anticipate that the emphasis will be mostly on air defence and ammunition although no doubt the Ukrainians will come in with a variety of other requests.

Shortly before the NATO meeting, Ukrainian Defence Minister Umerov addressed his Dutch counterpart Kajsa Ollongren about Ukraine’s “urgent needs” for air defence systems, long-range missiles and artillery.

Ollongren sees the discussion with Umerov as a sign that the alliance can aid both Ukraine and Israel.

“Splits? No. But I think of course there will also be attention and focus on Israel and how the situation is developing over there. But I think it’s very important, it’s a good thing that we are meeting tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, to underline that the support for Ukraine is not affected.”

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