NATO Leaders Stream to Ukraine, Showing Support as Russia Masses Troops

Several Western leaders and foreign ministers are scheduled to visit Kyiv in the coming days in a flurry of diplomatic activity that aims to deter a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine and find a peaceful way out of the crisis.

This show of presence, coupled with weapons deliveries by some of these countries, intends to demonstrate solidarity with Kyiv just as Russian President

Vladimir Putin

massed more than 100,000 troops around Ukraine, in what Washington says could be an imminent invasion.

Moscow denies it seeks war but says it won’t tolerate Ukraine, which isn’t a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, falling into the Western alliance’s orbit.

Foreign leaders scheduled to visit Ukraine this week include the prime ministers of the U.K., the Netherlands and Poland, and the president of Turkey. Several foreign ministers, including of Germany and France, are also slated to arrive this and next week.

France and Germany, in particular, are pursuing negotiations that could give Mr. Putin a face-saving way to de-escalate, focusing on moves to advance the long-stalled Minsk-2 agreement on the role of the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. Russian and Ukrainian officials last week met in Paris to revive talks on the Minsk-2 agreement that remains unimplemented since its signing in 2015, with another round slated for next week in Berlin.

“World leaders try to find their role, how to be part of a solution in what is happening around Ukraine, and it’s a good thing because this attracts attention,” said

Oleksandr Danylyuk,

who served as national-security adviser to Ukrainian President

Volodymyr Zelensky

and now heads the Center for National Resilience and Development think tank in Kyiv.

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Foreign leaders, including U.K Prime Minister Boris Johnson, are scheduled to visit Ukraine this week.


Photo:

ANDREW PARSONS/NO 10 DOWNING STR/via REUTERS

“What could be bad is that, by stepping in, they would be looking for something that brings some results—and the risk could be that this solution could be at our expense, at the expense of Ukraine,” he said.

When the crisis began late last year, with the Kremlin insisting on dealing directly with Washington and dismissing the Ukrainian government as a Western puppet, Ukrainian officials feared that their country’s fate could be decided without them. “Nothing about Ukraine without Ukraine,” became the mantra of Ukrainian diplomats, who tout the parade of senior Western officials landing in Kyiv as proof their approach is succeeding.

“Russia didn’t expect this level of solidarity of the world with Ukraine when it began this escalation,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister

Dmytro Kuleba

said Monday. “The tens of tons of defensive weapons, equipment and ammunition that arrive in Ukraine today create a ton of arguments that strengthen Ukraine’s negotiating position. All these weapons are needed precisely so that we wouldn’t need to use them,” he said.

While Germany has long refused to send arms to Ukraine, several NATO nations have moved in recent days to reduce gaps in Ukraine’s defense capabilities. The U.K. has provided around 2,000 light antitank missile systems, the U.S. has sent another batch of Javelin antitank missiles, and the Baltic states have shipped U.S.-made Stinger antiaircraft missiles. The U.K. and France have said they could add troops to fortify NATO’s eastern flank.

Turkey, whose President

Recep Tayyip Erdogan

is slated to visit Kyiv later this week, has long worked with Ukraine on Bayraktar TB2 armed drones that proved a game-changer in Azerbaijan’s war against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020. Ukraine began using the Bayraktars in Donbas last fall.

The U.S., NATO and Russia are caught in a diplomatic standoff over Moscow’s buildup of troops at the border with Ukraine. WSJ looks at what Russia wants and how Ukraine and its allies are preparing for a potential crisis. Photo: Andriy Dubchak/Associated Press

“Ankara does genuinely worry about Russian expansion, has cultivated a special relationship with Ukraine, and has been consistently supportive of independence of post-Soviet republics,” said Asli Aydintasbas, a Turkey expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

She added, however, that Mr. Erdogan is also aware of the fact that Turkish troops are able to operate in Syria only thanks to Russian acquiescence, a pressure point limiting Ankara’s ability to offer Ukraine significant assistance. “Russia has huge leverage,” she said. “He can go only so far in Ukraine.”

Poland, whose Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is slated to come to Kyiv on Tuesday for a meeting with Mr. Zelensky, said Monday it would be willing to send antiaircraft missiles to Ukraine if Kyiv approved that offer. “We are ready to deliver it at any minute,” said the head of Poland’s National Security Bureau, Paweł Soloch.

The missiles are part of a larger supply of ammunition, weaponry and medical supplies that Poland is offering its eastern neighbor, Mr. Soloch said, without specifying the other arms involved.

The European Union’s Trade Commissioner

Valdis Dombrovskis

was in Kyiv on Monday to hammer out details of a financial package of at least €1.2 billion, equivalent to about $1.35 billion, that the bloc announced last week. The EU is expected to announce additional support for Kyiv in coming weeks.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wearing a red tie, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Istanbul last year. Mr. Erdogan is slated to visit Kyiv this week.


Photo:

-/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

In Brussels, EU officials are still working on a package of financial, export-control and energy sanctions they are lining up in case of a Russian invasion of Ukraine while the bloc has dialed up both support for Kyiv in recent days and dialogue with Moscow. A senior EU official said Monday they hope to get the package completed over the next week.

One major exception to the Western displays of solidarity with Ukraine is Hungarian Prime Minister

Viktor Orban,

who is set to visit Moscow and meet with Mr. Putin on Tuesday. Mr. Orban—who has governed Hungary for half its postcommunist history—has an antagonistic relationship with Ukraine, and accuses Kyiv of violating the education rights of ethnic Hungarians in a part of western Ukraine that once belonged to Hungary. Mr. Orban has used Hungary’s veto in the 30-member NATO to block the military alliance’s formal meetings with Ukraine. At the same time, his government has so far signed up to EU calls to impose severe sanctions on Russia if it invades Ukraine, and regularly agrees to renew existing EU sanctions.

Mr. Orban has become close with Mr. Putin in the past decade as he fell out with successive U.S. governments that he felt were too critical of his moves to consolidate state authority over media and academia. His planned Moscow trip has already sparked criticism from the Hungarian opposition.

“Russia, which is considering invading Ukraine, is asking us to betray our allies, renounce our sovereignty, and render our country militarily defenseless,” said United for Hungary, the country’s main opposition alliance. “In this tense situation it is treasonous to go to Moscow.”

Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at yaroslav.trofimov@wsj.com and Laurence Norman at laurence.norman@wsj.com

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