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Defence and security links between Ukraine and NATO members and other Western countries, started soon after Ukraine’s independence in 1991. They intensified further when Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, but primarily took the form of training and the provision of non-lethal military equipment.

Since Russia’s military operations against Ukraine began on 24 February 2022, a large number of NATO members started supplying or approved supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine, including Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

For some countries such as Germany this was a significant reversal of their previous defence policies, which had ruled out providing offensive weapons.

The European Union announced it would provide a €450 million lethal arms  support package through its European Peace Facility (EPF), the first time the bloc had in its history approved the supply of lethal weapons to a third country. It has since announced another €500 million increase to the EPF Ukraine military assistance package.

The US announced an additional $350 million of military assistance to Ukraine once Russian military operations began, and then later in March a further $800 million, taking the total security assistance the US had approved for Ukraine to $2 billion over the past year.

The UK Government has said that there is not, and will not, be any  prospect of UK or NATO forces providing active military support in Ukraine itself, and no NATO alliance member has proposed putting troops on the ground. It has not provided all the details of what military equipment it is currently supplying to Ukraine for “operational security reasons”, but announced on 9 March that it had supplied 3,615 NLAWs (Next-Generation Light Anti-Tank Weapon Systems).

The UK has also ruled out creating a no-fly zone over Ukraine, and this is the position of the other NATO allies including the US (the parliaments of the three Baltic nations have all passed resolutions in support of no-fly zones, but their Governments have yet to officially endorse the policy).

Plans for NATO allies Poland and Slovakia who possess Soviet-era jets such as the MiG-29 to supply them to the Ukrainian air force who already fly such models, have not yet come to fruition. The difficulties include “back-filling” the donor countries with new jets so they have sufficient numbers to maintain their air-defences.

Weapons supplied to Ukraine, particularly troop-carried, shoulder-fired anti-tank missiles, such as the US-made Javelin, and UK-supplied NLAWs, appear to have made a significant difference in halting Russia’s military advance into the country. However, Russia has started to focus more of its efforts on attacking cities with long-range rockets and artillery, which Western-supplied military aid can do little to counter. Ukraine is still calling for more and “bigger ticket” weapons to be supplied.


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