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A Safety Belt for Europe

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Photo: Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, suffers from terrible shelling every day. The short distance from the Russian border necessitates the use of modern aviation to protect against artillery and missile attacks. Ukraine needs modern weapons to counter the numerically superior army of the aggressor. The photo shows a large supermarket being shelled on 25 May, resulting in numerous civilian casualties. Source: telegraf.com.ua
Photo: Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, suffers from terrible shelling every day. The short distance from the Russian border necessitates the use of modern aviation to protect against artillery and missile attacks. Ukraine needs modern weapons to counter the numerically superior army of the aggressor. The photo shows a large supermarket being shelled on 25 May, resulting in numerous civilian casualties. Source: telegraf.com.ua

Are the bilateral security agreements that Ukraine began signing in January 2024 additional security guarantees for the country? Absolutely, but they also provide significant security guarantees for the countries signing them. As of late May, bilateral agreements have been signed with eleven countries, and Ukraine is in negotiations with another seven. Among the G7 nations, five have signed the agreement, with the USA and Japan yet to sign. So, what do these agreements entail, and why hasn't there been a bilateral agreement with the USA, the undisputed leader in providing military and financial assistance to Ukraine?


Photo: In Brussels, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo (on the right) signed a bilateral agreement on security cooperation and long-term support on May 28. Source: president.gov.ua


In the coming weeks, it is expected that at least two key countries for Ukraine's support—the USA and Poland—will finalise bilateral security agreements with Ukraine. Kyiv is also actively negotiating with Tokyo regarding an agreement with Japan. This is happening against the backdrop of the Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine—a framework document signed by the leaders of the G7 countries, the Presidents of the European Council, and the European Commission at the NATO summit in Vilnius on 12 July 2023. This document is open for other countries to join, and since then, many countries have signed on—25 more countries have joined in addition to the original signatories, making a total of over thirty.


Regarding Ukraine's bilateral security agreements with countries supporting its fight against Russian aggression, there are many controversial opinions. Some view these agreements as practically direct guarantees of security and territorial integrity, while others see them as decorative agreements meant more for psychological support. Spoiler: the true role of these bilateral agreements is closer to the former definition than the latter. Specifically, the bilateral agreements include financial indicators of the support Ukraine receives from the signing country.

Photo: In Madrid, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy (on the left) and the Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sánchez signed a bilateral Agreement on Security Cooperation on May 27. Source: president.gov.ua




Why Bilateral Agreements Are Needed in Addition to the General G7 Declaration


As of late May, eleven countries have signed bilateral security agreements with Ukraine, with at least seven others in negotiations preparing to sign agreements. The following countries have signed bilateral security agreements in chronological order:

  • United Kingdom (12 January 2024, G7 member)
  • Germany (16 February 2024, G7 member)
  • France (16 February 2024, G7 member)
  • Denmark (23 February 2024)
  • Italy (24 February 2024, G7 member)
  • Canada (24 February 2024, G7 member)
  • Netherlands (1 March 2024)
  • Finland (3 April 2024)
  • Latvia (11 April 2024)
  • Spain (27 May 2024)
  • Belgium (28 May 2024)

The UK was the pioneer in this process, as it was the first European country to provide military support to Ukraine in 2022 with weapons, funds, training, and technical assistance.


The development of the security agreements system began two years ago when, on 24 May 2022, the creation of an international advisory group was announced. This group was to develop proposals for security guarantees for Ukraine. It was jointly chaired by the head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, Andriy Yermak, and former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen. A series of consultative meetings followed, helping to design the security framework.

Photo: The Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine—a framework document signed by the leaders of the G7 countries and the Presidents of the European Council and the European Commission at the NATO summit in Vilnius on 12 July 2023. Source: president.gov.ua


As a result, on 12 July 2023, at the NATO summit in Vilnius, the leaders of the G7 countries, together with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, agreed on the Joint Declaration of Support for Ukraine. This framework agreement formally stated that Ukraine's security is an integral part of the Euro-Atlantic region's security.


"We will help Ukraine build strong and capable defence forces on land, in the air, and at sea. This will ensure stability in the region and deter any threats. I want to thank my G7 colleagues and President Zelensky for their work on this," said Joseph Biden during the declaration's approval. He further emphasised that the G7 countries committed in this declaration to support Ukraine as long as necessary while it defends its freedom and rebuilds its future.


Subsequently, 24 more countries joined this Declaration, four of which also signed bilateral security agreements: Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland, and Latvia.


The G7 Declaration on Ukraine is a powerful diplomatic tool that structures the policies of individual countries, which compete for leadership in various areas, into a cohesive framework. Bilateral agreements are intended to outline the specific contributions and commitments made by each partner country to Ukraine. These contributions primarily focus on:

  • Enhancing Ukraine's ability to resist aggression;
  • Strengthening the restoration of territorial integrity;
  • Bolstering the resilience of state governance and the provision of essential services by the Ukrainian government;
  • Supporting Ukraine's economic capabilities;
  • Assisting efforts to rebuild the economy and the country as a whole.

Although the first bilateral agreement was signed six months after the Declaration, this does not mean that nothing was done during this period.


How These Agreements Work and What to Expect Next

These agreements are signed for a ten-year term with the possibility of extension. A particularly illustrative example is the agreement between Ukraine and Germany, which includes both military and humanitarian aspects. Notably, it states that 170,000 square kilometres of Ukrainian territory are contaminated with mines and explosive devices. This presents a colossal challenge requiring unprecedented future efforts.


In 2022, Germany provided Ukraine with military aid worth €1.68 billion under the Federal Government's initiative to build security capacity. In 2023, Germany's military aid to Ukraine totalled over €5 billion. This is all detailed in the bilateral security agreement between the countries. Furthermore, it states that in 2024, Germany has decided to allocate €7.1 billion for military aid. Of course, these and subsequent funding decisions must pass through the Bundestag, but there is no significant opposition to such appropriations.


Additionally, Germany has announced its leadership in the coalition supporting Ukraine's air and missile defence. Similarly structured agreements exist with other European leading countries. For instance, the UK declares leadership in the Maritime Security Capability Coalition, while France focuses on coalitions for artillery and air defence, and also participates in coalitions for air forces and maritime security.

In Madrid, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Prime Minister of Spain Pedro Sánchez signed a bilateral agreement on security cooperation on May 27. Specifically, Spain will provide Ukraine with €1 billion in military aid this year. In addition, the agreement states Spain's willingness to continue providing multifaceted support throughout the 10-year term of the agreement.

In Brussels, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo signed a bilateral agreement on security cooperation and long-term support on May 28. Belgium will allocate at least €977 million in military aid to Ukraine this year. This commitment, as well as the readiness to support our country over the ten-year term of the agreement, is enshrined in this document.

Bilateral agreements with leading countries include plans to support Ukraine's defence industry, including access to new technologies and intellectual property. These agreements aim to strengthen Ukraine's defence capabilities to a level that would prevent a repeat of the invasion observed since February 2022.

Photo: Meeting of the President of Ukraine with the President of the European Commission and the heads of government of Italy, Canada, and Belgium in Kyiv on 24 February, during which bilateral security agreements were signed with Denmark and Canada. Source: president.gov.ua



At least seven more bilateral security agreements are expected to be signed. The agreement with Poland is likely to be signed during the Ukraine Peace Summit, scheduled for 15-16 June in Switzerland. It is also possible that new bilateral agreements will be signed at the 75th anniversary NATO summit in Washington from 9-11 July. Ukraine's greatest hopes are for an agreement with the USA and the decision to supply multi-role combat aircraft F-16s, which could be a game-changer in the most devastating war of the past 79 years.

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