This article is part of a series of short texts on issues that challenge the alliance as it celebrates its 75th anniversary.

Russia’s war in Ukraine will be the central issue of the upcoming NATO summit in Washington, DC. Though the alliance continues to focus on threats coming from all directions, the “360-degree” perspective, the war has entirely upended security in Europe. Ukrainian membership in NATO—even an invitation to join— is not on the agenda, but support for Kyiv and its relationship with the bloc will be the critical and contentious issue in discussions at the summit and beyond. The situation on the Ukrainian front will continue to drive security policy in Europe and in the alliance as a whole. 

A week before the gathering, the Ukraine “package” is not yet finalized. The most controversial issue remains the language about the country’s future in the alliance. At last year’s Vilnius summit, allies adopted a disappointingly cautious stance on Ukrainian membership. They emphasized that “Ukraine’s future is in NATO” and affirmed that membership will come “when Allies agree and conditions are met” but provided no guidelines. Sources in NATO headquarters say the current draft language includes a reference to Ukraine’s “bridge toward NATO”, but this is seen as an even weaker statement than the one offered at Vilnius. 

Other elements of the Ukraine package look more promising. There is agreement that NATO will assume from the US-led “Ramstein Group”, officially known as the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, coordination of military aid to Ukraine. This will give the process deeper institutionalization, making it more resilient to political changes in NATO member states. It will also help coordinate military support (e.g., defense plans and joint training) and boost interoperability of forces. A second agreement will create a fund to bring stability to providing military aid to Ukraine. The fund, as now foreseen, would finance $40 billion of such assistance annually, sufficient for Kyiv to sustain the fight against Russia but insufficient for a more robust defense let alone the ability to go on the offense. The Washington summit will also create a senior civilian post to oversee relations between NATO and Ukraine, giving that process an authoritative voice that may become an advocate for deeper integration.

One critical piece of NATO’s Ukraine strategy that is unlikely to change at the summit is the recognition by the key allies that supporting Ukraine “as long as it takes” is not working. NATO needs instead to shift to a strategy of “as much as it takes”. Otherwise, Ukraine is in danger of bleeding out in the war against a better resourced and determined aggressor for which the lives of its citizens and soldiers hardly matter.