Nato will announce ‘historic’ Ukraine aid package – but hospital attack shows it’s not enough

<span>Medics carry a little girl and equipment at the site of a missile strike on a children's hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 8 July 2024.</span><span>Photograph: Vladyslav Musiienko/EPA</span>
Medics carry a little girl and equipment at the site of a missile strike on a children's hospital in Kyiv, Ukraine, on 8 July 2024.Photograph: Vladyslav Musiienko/EPA

After one of the worst Russian missile strikes against Ukraine in recent months, Nato leaders will sit down in Washington this week to announce the details of a hard-fought aid package that will include crucial air defense systems meant to protect Ukrainian cities.

The package put forward by Nato countries has been presented as “historic” and is an widely seen as an attempt to “futureproof” continued aid to Ukraine – but it may not fully satisfy Kyiv, which has been facing unprecedented attacks against civilian sites and infrastructure.

Related: ‘No words for this’: horror over Russian bombing of Kyiv children’s hospital

The resumption of large-scale missile strikes against targets in Kyiv will increase the sense of urgency around the discussions among 32 Nato leaders. Images from Kyiv showed children at a pediatric cancer hospital covered in blood and dust after the strike on Monday which a Biden administration official described as “horrific, tragic, senseless”. There were believed to be bodies still trapped under the rubble of the hospital.

“This is a fully deliberate action, specifically designed and approved by … Putin. On the eve of the @Nato summit. As a slap in the face to the alliance,” wrote Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to the Ukrainian presidential administration. He called it an “informal signal” that “even the outright murder of children will not make them [the Alliance] take all the necessary decisions. And that is why we continue to attack.”

Observers expect Nato members to pledge of at least four additional Patriot missile batteries to Ukraine at the conclusion of this week’s summit. Zelenskiy had previously asked Nato for seven batteries, telling Nato members that Putin “must be brought down to earth, and our sky must become safe again ... And it depends fully on your choice … [the] choice whether we are indeed allies.”

It is expected that the four Patriot missile systems will likely be delivered by the US, Germany, Romania and a Dutch-led multinational effort. Spain, Greece and Poland also field Patriot missile systems but have so far not pledged to supply any batteries to Ukraine. Another system could be provided by Israel, which now employs the Iron Dome and other air defense systems to protect against rocket and missile attacks.

“It’s clear that allies need to step up and provide Ukraine with additional air defense systems, precisely in order to be able to prevent types of tragedies that we’ve seen today, but sadly that we’ve seen time and again, month after a month since the beginning of this brutal and senseless war,” said Michael Carpenter, senior director for Europe at the US National Security Council.

The new military aid package to Ukraine is expected to include a joint commitment from Nato members to spend at least €40bn ($43bn) in 2025 on aid to Ukraine.

“Since Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022, Allies have provided €40bn in military support to Ukraine each year,” Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary general of Nato, said last month. “We must maintain this level of support as a minimum, and for as long as it takes.”

Stoltenberg had asked for a multi-year pledge from the 32 Nato member states but it did not appear that they had come to an agreement on the eve of the summit.

A European official said that the idea of a multi-year pledge was “still being discussed because some allies including here are uncomfortable with the idea of a multi-annual pledge because of their legal and institutional limitations, so I think we still have to wait”.

One way around that issue, the official said, would be to “just make an annual pledge and then to recommit summit after summit”. Next year’s Nato summit is set to take place at the Hague.

But that could take place after the re-election of Donald Trump, who has threatened to cut aid to Ukraine or make it conditional on starting talks with Russia.

“The big orange elephant in the room for the Nato summit is that everything good that’s going to be said about Ukraine comes with a big caveat,” said Camille Grand, a former Nato assistant secretary general who is now at the European Council on Foreign Relations. “It is will this all hold if Trump is elected? And I don’t believe in bureaucracies … because it has been agreed at the Nato summit that the Trump administration would follow that.”

Nato members are expected to announce the establishment of a new military command in the German city of Wiesbaden which would coordinate military aid and training for Ukraine, effectively replacing the US-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group. That would in effect move the onus of supplying Ukraine from the Pentagon to Nato, in what US officials have said would be a “bridge to membership” preparing the country to be ready to work with the alliance when it is admitted “on day one”.

The new effort is also seen as a way to “Trump-proof” future aid to Ukraine if he is elected in November by “institutionalising” aid to Kyiv.

Carpenter also said that there would be announcements concerning the provision of F-16s to Ukraine. Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway have pledged to provide Ukraine with about 80 US made F-16 fighter jets between them, but the program to get the planes in the air has been hit by delays in delivery and training. The first F-16s are expected to arrive this summer.

On the eve of the summit, diplomats said there was still “no consensus” on Nato issuing an invitation to Ukraine at the summit to join the alliance. “Some allies are reluctant in that direction, but we are discussing languages to at least showcase that Ukraine’s path to membership is irreversible, that there is no there is no way back,” said a European official.

A Biden administration official declined to directly discuss the language of the final communiqué because it was “still being negotiated”, but said that the summit declaration “will include very strong signals of Allied support for Ukraine on its path to Euro-Atlantic integration. And it’s going to also underscore the importance of Ukraine’s vital work on democratic, economic and security reforms.”