EU draws up plan for ‘sustained’ military aid to Ukraine

A leaked internal document shows the EU suggesting a long-term security umbrella to bolster Ukraine's defenses.

EU draws up plan for ‘sustained’ military aid to Ukraine

BRUSSELS — The EU wants to commit itself to defending Ukraine for the long haul. 

The European External Action Service has drafted a plan, obtained by POLITICO, that recommends the bloc make a full slate of “security commitments to Ukraine” for years to come as it fends off Russia’s onslaught.

The suggestions run the gamut, including everything from ensuring a “sustained” flow of weapons to Kyiv, to continuing military education and training, to sharing intelligence and helping connect Ukrainian and EU defense companies.

And down the road, the draft document by the EU’s diplomatic service adds, “Ukraine’s EU membership would be in itself a security commitment.” To help it get there, it argues, the EU must craft “long-term and predictable financial support” so Ukraine can rebuild.

The recommendations are mostly a summary of the EU efforts already underway to support Ukraine. But taken together, they are notable in their breadth and suggested longevity, essentially outlining billions in potential support in the coming years — a politically touchy subject given that economies are straining and some countries are loathe to give the EU more money.

The prescriptions come against the backdrop of a broader debate among Western allies about how to guarantee Ukraine’s continued survival not just this summer, but for the foreseeable future beyond. 

“The more we can talk about long-term engagements, the more we can send Putin the message that he cannot count on European fatigue, due to elections or whatever other reason,” said one EU diplomat, speaking anonymously to discuss the plan freely. 

However, the diplomat added, this “doesn’t mean we are betting that the war will last.”

A spokesperson for the EU diplomatic body said they don’t comment on leaked documents. 

An EU umbrella

In addition to the EU, major Western powers like the United States, Britain, Germany and France are working to craft their own security “umbrella” that would allow other countries to join and make their own varying pledges to provide ongoing military aid for Ukraine. 

Separately, NATO is working on ways to modernize Ukraine’s military and prepare for it to one day join the military alliance.

EU security pledges would add to these plans, albeit carrying somewhat less resonance.

The EU as an entity is, by design, constrained in what it can do militarily. While it can provide assistance like military training and education, for example, it cannot actually give Ukraine weapons. Instead, Brussels has been encouraging EU countries to send their own arms by offering partial reimbursements for such donations.

The document envisions this reimbursement system as a pillar of the EU’s long-term military support for Ukraine, saying officials will “soon” offer a plan to create a “dedicated” pot of money for such efforts that would run through 2027. 

“This will be a core element of [the] EU’s security commitment to Ukraine in the short to longer term,” it says. 

The EU has been partially paying countries back for their arms donations through a once little-known fund dubbed the European Peace Facility. That pot of money sits outside the normal EU budget, allowing its use for weapons. The setup also lets EU leaders sign off on new cash infusions without affecting the EU’s regular budget.

Recently, leaders authorized another €3.5 billion for the fund, bringing its total to €12 billion. Part of that injection, €1 billion, is expected to be specifically dedicated to Ukraine, according to several diplomats who spoke anonymously to describe the plans.

The draft document says the EU will spend €4 billion from the fund this year alone to help cover arms for Ukraine. And over time, it adds, the fund should evolve, moving from reimbursements for items like ammunition to subsidizing joint EU weapons purchases and “more sophisticated and costly weapons systems.”

Specifically, the document argues the EU should be “co-funding” countries’ attempts to procure missiles and fighter jets as part of a long-term plan to bolster Ukraine’s air defenses.

Separately, the document is keen to tout the extent of EU-provided military training, saying that 25,000 Ukrainian military personnel have either completed or are currently undergoing training. Yet new goal posts, it argues, are needed. 

The document is a follow-up to a pledge that EU leaders made following their summit last month in Brussels. In a joint statement, the 27 leaders said they “stand ready to contribute, together with partners, to future security commitments to Ukraine.”

The document argues the EU’s iron-clad unity with Ukraine is existential, calling Russia’s war “a fundamental challenge to European peace and security.” Russia, it says, is “unlikely to abandon its goal to subjugate Ukraine.”

Because of that, it adds, “Ukraine will continue to need [the] EU’s long-term commitment and support to secure its free and democratic European future.”