BRUSSELS — NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday condemned what they called Russia's "continued and deliberate destabilization" in Ukraine, and announced new assistance for Ukraine's military.
The ministers, meeting in Brussels, spoke with their Ukrainian counterpart, Pavlo Klimkin, via a video hookup with Kiev on Tuesday. They criticized Russia's reported military buildup in Crimea and Kremlin plans for a military buildup in the Black Sea.
In a statement, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the other ministers said Russia's actions "undermine the security of Ukraine and have serious implications for the stability and security of the entire Euro-Atlantic area."
To help finance the reform and modernization of Ukraine's military, NATO has announced the creation of so-called trust funds. The ministers said Tuesday the funds are now operational for logistics, cyber defense, rehabilitation of wounded soldiers and other uses.
"The choice of Ukraine to join the family of European democracies is clear and it has to be respected," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference.
The meeting was NATO's most important gathering since President Barack Obama and other alliance heads of state and government met in Wales 90 days earlier.
Stoltenberg said the foreign ministers are expected to take key decisions in several areas, including maintaining a "continuous NATO presence" in front-line alliance member states near Russia, and creation of an interim rapid-reaction force to come to the assistance of NATO nations under direct threat from Russia or elsewhere.
The ministers also are expected to authorize the launch of an advisory mission in Afghanistan on Jan. 1, when NATO-led combat operations there are scheduled to end.