(Brussels) Russia is preparing for a long war against Ukraine, to which NATO allies must continue to supply weapons until President Vladimir Putin realizes that he “cannot win on the spot of battle,” Alliance leader Jens Stoltenberg told AFP on Friday.
Nearly ten months after Moscow’s invasion of its pro-Western neighbor, Ukrainian forces inflicted a succession of defeats on the Kremlin that freed entire swaths of territory. But “there is no indication that Putin has given up on his goal of controlling Ukraine,” warned the NATO Secretary General.
“We should not underestimate Russia. It is preparing for a long war,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with AFP. “We see that they are mobilizing more forces, that they are ready to take a lot of losses as well, that they are trying to get access to more weapons and ammunition,” he stressed.
“We have to understand that President Putin is ready to be in this war for a long time and to launch new offensives,” he said.
NATO countries, led by the United States, have provided Ukraine with billions of dollars worth of weaponry that has helped it stand up to Russian forces.
“Most likely is that this war will end at the negotiating table, like most wars,” Mr. Stoltenberg argues. Any solution must ensure that “Ukraine prevails as a sovereign and independent nation”, he insisted.
“The quickest way to do this is to support them militarily, so that President Putin understands that he cannot win on the battlefield, but has to sit down and negotiate in good faith.”
Speed up production
After the setbacks suffered on the ground, Moscow launched waves of missile and drone strikes against civilian energy infrastructure.
According to US reports, Washington is finalizing plans to send its most advanced Patriot missile batteries to Ukraine, which will supplement other Western air defense systems already supplied to Kyiv.
Mr Stoltenberg said a “discussion was underway” for the delivery of the Patriots, but he stressed that NATO countries must ensure that there are sufficient ammunition and spare parts so that the weapons sent so far continue to function.
“We have a dialogue among allies on additional systems, but it is becoming increasingly important to ensure that all systems that are delivered are functional,” he explained.
Ukraine’s arms demands have depleted allies’ member stocks and sparked fears that the Alliance’s defense industries may not be able to produce enough.
“We are increasing our production for this specific purpose, so that we can both replenish our own stocks for deterrence and defense and continue to support Ukraine over the long term,” Stoltenberg said.
A decisive moment
Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was a shock to the West. It forced NATO to make its biggest adjustment since the end of the Cold War by massively reinforcing its eastern flank. Finland and Sweden were pushed to join NATO.
“This is the most dangerous security crisis we have seen in Europe since the Second World War,” said Mr. Stoltenberg. It’s a pivotal moment.”
Jens Stoltenberg clarified that despite a recent decline in Putin’s nuclear threats, the Alliance remains “vigilant and will constantly monitor what they are doing.”
Nuclear rhetoric, with references to the potential use of nuclear weapons, is reckless and dangerous.
Jens Stoltenberg, head of NATO
“His goal is of course to dissuade us from supporting Ukraine, but he will not achieve that,” he added.
Jens Stoltenberg’s mandate at the head of NATO, extended for a year in March, comes to an end at the end of 2023. The 63-year-old former Norwegian prime minister did not specify whether he would definitively leave his position. post next year. “I have no other plans,” he said simply.
He did not wish to comment on the calls made by certain allies in favor of the appointment of a woman to succeed him, which would be a first for the Alliance.
“My goal is to carry out my responsibilities as Secretary General of NATO in such a way that the Alliance remains united,” he said. “That’s my only concern and then I leave it to the Heads of State and Government to decide who will succeed me.”