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Ukraine on Thursday championed its evolving partnership with NATO as “full interoperability” and said it has gained access to the alliance’s modern weaponry as its war with Russia continues for the ninth week.
More than 40 NATO members and allied nations from around the world met for U.S.-led talks in Germany and agreed to provide more aid for Ukraine this week.
Ukrainian Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov said Thursday that there had been “tectonic shifts at the level of philosophy” when it comes to Kyiv’s relationship with NATO and other allied nations.
“For a long time, we have been convincing our partners that it is advisable to provide Ukraine with Western-compliant weapons that meet NATO standards,” he said. “The transition to Western calibers and technology is a strategic decision that has finally been made.
“Gradually, this will ensure full interoperability of the Ukrainian army with the armies of NATO countries,” Reznikov added.
The defense minister said that since taking up his post last year, he made joining the 30-member alliance a top priority.
It is unclear if Ukraine will still seek to join NATO given that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy conceded the ambition last month amid peace talks with Moscow.
But talks have stalled and Russia has refused to halt its deadly assault in Ukraine, even suggesting that it will look to neighboring Moldova next.
Reznikov applauded the U.S. for not only bringing together nations from the European Union and NATO but from Africa, the Middle East and Asia to encourage them to provide increased security aid to fend off Russia’s advances.
“This is a real coalition, whose goal is not just to restrain the Kremlin, but to defeat Russian tyranny, to provide the civilized world with the opportunity to win this war,” he said.
The defense minister said an advisory group had been established that will meet once a month to coordinate logistics to get Ukraine the security defenses it needs.
“For example, when decisions are made to provide Ukraine with one or another weapon, through coordination, weapons of the same type will come from different countries,” he explained. “I will not hide – three months ago this task was considered almost impossible.”
Reznikov said the partnership will not only help to more efficiently supply Ukraine with weapons but will help with “interoperability” among defense industries as nations look to deter Russia from expanding its campaign in Europe.
The U.S. and allied nations have repeatedly voiced concern over sending Ukraine certain types of defensive aid that its forces have not been trained on.
But last week a senior defense official said the U.S. was skirting this issue by training a small group of Ukrainian forces on modern weaponry in a third-party nation. These soldiers can then return to Ukraine to train their fellow troops.
“Our soldiers have been mastering Western weapons for some time,” the defense minister said. “Now the training programs will be scaled up and extended.
“These are truly historical changes that will materialize in the coming weeks and months,” he said.