New Zealand's support for Ukraine to buy weapons is a "significant step-up" in the country's response to Russia's war on the European nation, an expert says.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced on Monday a C-130 Hercules aircraft would travel to Europe with 50 Defence Force personnel, to help transport and distribute donated military aid to Ukraine.
An extra $13.1 million would go towards military and legal and human rights support, and an eight-person logistic specialists team would support the international donor co-ordination centre in Germany.
That funding included $7.5m to contribute to weapons and ammunition procurement by Britain.
Air Marshal Kevin Short, the Chief of Defence Force, said this was the largest deployment to Europe since about 250 personnel were sent to Bosnia in the 1990s.
Short said funding weapons purchases through Britain was far more effective than sending New Zealand's small stock, which would equate to "five minutes" on the battlefield compared with this support of about three months.
So far New Zealand had focused its efforts on condemning Russia's actions through economic sanctions, and for Ukraine humanitarian support and non-lethal aid to the military, including intelligence and protective equipment.
Professor Rouben Azizian of Massey University's Defence and Security Centre said the move to funding lethal weaponry showed a shift from targeting Russia as the aggressor, through measures like sanctions, to supporting and equipping Ukraine, the victim of the aggression.
It also showed increasing faith from New Zealand and the Western world they were not just stopping Ukraine from being overwhelmed by Russia, but Ukraine could actually achieve victory, he said.
"It is a significant step-up in my opinion," Azizian told Newstalk ZB.
He said New Zealand's contribution, while relatively small, was "comprehensive" and high quality. He noted the wide-ranging aspects including funding - $500,000 - for the International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice.
Azizian, a former Russian diplomat, said the measures also continued New Zealand's showing of support for human rights and democratic values and demonstrated support for the Ukrainian community here.
"They'll see New Zealand is not a bystander. New Zealand is a small country, but increasingly small and middle countries are important in how we shape the world and international systems."
Monday's announcement brought total Ukraine support to $30m and 67 people deployed.
National Party foreign affairs spokesman and former Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said the package was an "appropriate and proportionate response", but he hoped it was only part of a "continuum".
He said comparatively New Zealand was contributing far less than Australia, which had so far given about $180m in military and $70m humanitarian support, along with 70,000 tonnes of coal to power Ukraine's efforts.
Green Party foreign affairs spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman said the military support was more about appeasing allies than actual effective support.
"What we are providing will not go far and is more symbolic and about supporting Nato than anything."
Ghahraman said it would have been more effective for the full package to go towards humanitarian assistance.
Ardern said she did not believe there was a distinction between this aid to purchase weaponry and previous aid, and the terms "lethal" versus "non-lethal", despite using that terminology in earlier announcements.
She said the Government was also taking steps to help Ukrainians with satellite imagery and humanitarian and legal assistance.
Ardern said the goal was to help Ukraine "repel a brutal Russian invasion".
"Such a blatant attack on a country's sovereignty is a threat to all of us and that's why we too have a role to play.
"The global response has seen an unprecedented amount of military support pledged for Ukraine, and more help to transport and distribute it is urgently needed, and so we will do our bit to help."
Ardern said the Russian invasion clearly breached the international rules-based order.
"This is a conflict at great distance from New Zealand but still of significance to New Zealand."
On questions around calling in the Russian Ambassador to Parliament's foreign affairs, defence and trade select committee, Ardern said she trusted they would seek and listen to the correct legal advice.
She said there were other more effective options though than targeting the ambassador.