NATO Strengthens Ukraine Support Amid Election Uncertainty

World leaders are gathering in Washington, D.C., this week for the NATO summit, amid growing concerns about the sustainability of U.S. support for Ukraine.

The summit marks the 75th anniversary of NATO’s founding and comes as questions arise about the implications of a potential change in U.S. leadership on Ukraine’s ongoing war with Russia.

Key discussions at the summit, which begins on Tuesday, include Ukraine’s progress in its war with Russia, its future within NATO, and the alliance’s plans to strengthen its collective defense.

The U.S. has been a leading supporter of Ukraine since the war began, providing the most substantial aid from any nation. This has sparked debate within the U.S. regarding the country’s capacity and willingness to maintain this level of support under a different administration.

Former President Donald Trump, during a debate with President Biden last month, declined to clarify U.S. involvement in NATO if he were to win a second term, shrugging off a question about his stance on the alliance.

While experts agree that a complete withdrawal from NATO is unlikely, the alliance is taking steps to secure its support for Ukraine should the U.S. decrease its involvement.

Reports emerged last week suggesting that NATO is committing another $43 billion in funding for Ukraine in 2025, indicating a pledge of support for next year.

“I don’t think NATO would explicitly say they’re doing anything because of the politics of a specific member state,” said retired Rear Adm. Mark Montgomery, a senior fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “But I think they do understand that Donald Trump has asked for a higher level of European state leadership within NATO, and contributions within NATO.

“And I think they are seeing what’s happening, [and] they are starting to maneuver themselves accordingly,” he added.

Montgomery also expects discussions surrounding the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a coalition of over 50 nations, including all 32 NATO members, that supports Kyiv and is largely spearheaded by the U.S. under Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.

“This is about the day-to-day management of the Ukraine support packages,” Montgomery said, highlighting the time it would take to replace officials in the event of a Trump administration.

Funding Ukraine’s defense efforts to oust Russia over the past three years has been expensive, facing pushback not only from Republicans in Congress but also from isolationist movements in Europe as conservative lawmakers gain influence in the European Union.

In April, Congress approved a $40 billion aid package for Kyiv. However, the months-long blockade on the package proved to be a major setback for Ukraine, leading to a critical depletion of its arms and highlighting the vital role of U.S. weaponry in the war against Russia.

It remains unclear whether any individual NATO nations will pledge additional aid packages this week, but experts have consistently warned that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be deterred in his war effort without sufficient support for Ukraine.

“It needs to be such a significant sum of money that it’s made crystal clear to Putin that he can’t run the clock here,” said former NATO Assistant Secretary General for Defense Investment, Marshall Billingslea. “Equally important, is that the allies need to furnish the kinds of sophisticated weapons that the Ukrainians need, and they need to do so without the ridiculous limitations that have so far been put on some of them — like the Biden administration’s refusal to on Russian soil.”

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy has repeatedly urged the U.S. to authorize the use of long-range weaponry, such as American-made ATACMS, to strike military targets in Russia.

While nations like the U.K. and France have no limitations on the weapons they provide Ukraine, the Biden administration has imposed restrictions on striking targets outside Ukraine. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called on all NATO nations to abandon this condition.

The alliance is expected to release additional “language” on providing a pathway for Ukraine to join NATO, though it remains highly unlikely that Kyiv will be able to pursue membership until its conflict with Russia concludes.

Billingslea explained that NATO will aim to strike a balance by signaling “to Putin that Ukrainian membership in NATO is in no doubt or will not be indefinitely delayed if he chooses to continue to engage in hostilities.”

But the success of Ukraine and its ongoing international support are not the only key topics on the agenda. The alliance will also focus on bolstering its collective defense by addressing all international threats it faces.

“There’s a coalition of authoritarians that with, and that is China, Russia, North Korea and Iran,” Montgomery said.

China, Iran and North Korea have not only backed Russia in its war in Ukraine, but they have also made it clear that their unity is based on countering Western dominance, not solely on Russia’s war aims in the former Soviet nation.

“Ukraine is on the frontline of fighting all four of these authoritarian regimes. NATO better step up to support it,” Montgomery warned.