NATO foreign ministers gathered in Brussels on Tuesday, mostly to discuss Afghanistan and the decision to extend the troop presence in the country beyond 2016.
During the two-day session, foreign ministers will also make a decision on whether to move forward with Montenegro’s application for membership—a decision that seems likely.
Hanging over the entire meeting will be the situation in Ukraine, with the evasive position of Russia and its involvement there, but also the recent Turkish shoot-down of a Russian plane.
NATO ambassadors held an emergency meeting on that after which the alliance expressed support for Turkey but urged calm and tried to de-escalate tensions. Still, the chilling relations between Turkey and Russia, along with deep suspicion of Russian intentions among eastern NATO allies, will complicate efforts to forge closer ties with Russia and the American-led coalition fighting in Syria.
Simultaneously, across the city, EU Trade commissioner Cecilia Malmström is meeting her Russian and Ukrainian counterparts in Brussels in what could be a last ditch effort to win Russian acceptance of the EU’s trade deal with Ukraine, which comes into full effect on Jan. 1 2016.
Moscow is still concerned about the impact of the Ukraine-EU agreement on the Russian economy, and threatens to take retaliatory steps against Ukraine if the pact enters into effect.
Seen from the outside, Ukraine seems to have had more concrete support from NATO than from the EU. Following the September 2014 Wales Summit, NATO Allies have established five Trust Funds to help Ukraine better provide for its security. In response to a request from Ukraine, NATO agreed in June 2015 to launch a sixth Trust Fund on Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices and Explosive Ordnance Disposal.
There is also a Command, Control, Communications and Computers (C4) Trust Fund led by Canada, Germany, and the United Kingdom. Lead nations have presented two projects on providing tactical radios and satellite phones to Ukraine and on establishing a Regional Airspace Security Programme (RASP). Projects are underway to install a simplified cross-border coordination unit to handle air security incidents. Duration: Initial period of two years.
NATO has established for Ukraine a Logistics and Standardization Trust Fund, but also a Cyber Defence Trust Fund, run by Ukraine’s neighbour Romania. Additional Contributors are Albania, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Turkey, United States.
The objective is to help Ukraine develop technical capabilities to counter cyber threats. Assistance will include establishing an Incident Management Centre to monitor cyber security events and laboratories to investigate cyber security incidents. Ukraine will also get training in using these technologies and equipment, as well as practical advice on policy development.
Training and advisory activities have been launched. Estonia has been providing cyber security trainings since May.