The Green Party says New Zealand has put its relationship with the NATO security alliance ahead of saving lives in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern yesterday announced $5 million would go to a NATO fund for the purchase of “non-lethal military assistance” such as fuel, rations and first aid equipment.
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, or NATO, is a security alliance including the United States, Canada and 28 European nations.
Green Party Foreign Affairs spokesperson Golriz Ghahraman told RNZ the funding appeared to be a “diplomatic nod” and could have been put to better use.
“It looks like we’re trying to be part of the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ — so to speak — when that’s not actually our best contribution,” Ghahraman said.
“That $5m could have gone to aid where it would immediately be saving lives … versus us ticking-the-box of being in the NATO circle while giving very little by way of actually helping people in this conflict.”
Ghahraman said Ukrainian refugees were desperately in need of food, blankets, medicine and shelter.
‘Contending with covid’
“They are contending with covid at the same time they’re living through a European winter — millions upon millions, displaced in refugee camps or in need of resettlement.”
To date, New Zealand has contributed $6m in humanitarian aid, mostly through the Red Cross. The government has also created a special visa to assist Ukrainians to join their relatives in New Zealand.
Speaking at a media conference on Monday, Ardern said the “extraordinary measures” to help Ukrainian forces were in direct response to requests from Ukraine.
Asked to explain the pivot from humanitarian aid to military assistance, Ardern described Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as “a massive disruption to the international rules-based order”.
The Defence Force will also donate surplus stock of 1066 body armour plates, 571 camouflage vests and 473 helmets to Ukrainian forces.
ACT leader David Seymour said New Zealand’s contribution was “pathetic” and should include direct weapon support.
“How long do we want to be the weakest link in the West? We have to answer the call and provide what we have to help these people defend their homes.”
Send missile launchers
Seymour said New Zealand should immediately send Ukraine its supply of Javelin medium-range missile launchers.
“They’re not doing much here — I haven’t seen any Russian tanks in New Zealand lately — but they could do a lot over there,” Seymour said.
Ardern said directly providing weapons would be a “fundamental change” in the country’s approach to the conflict, but the option remained on the table.
She noted New Zealand did not have a large supply of such equipment.
National Party Foreign Affairs spokesperson Gerry Brownlee told RNZ the government’s response, so far, was appropriate.
“The circumstances here are very different than anything we’ve had to deal with before,” Brownlee said. “We should be doing our bit.”
Brownlee said the option of providing firepower could potentially be considered “further down the track”.
“Our contribution would be so small compared to that from the United States or Great Britain,” Brownlee said.
“Whatever we do, clearly we’re going to have to operate through NATO and their connections into Ukraine to make sure that whatever assistance is given does get to the right place.”
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.