Sat, 10 Jun 2023

The conflict between Ukraine and Russia could still last for years, the NATO secretary general has said

NATO is set to declare Moscow a "threat to our security" rather than a "partner" in its new strategy concept, the military bloc's head, Jens Stoltenberg, told Germany's Bild tabloid on Saturday. NATO will also continue to arm Ukraine - for years if necessary - in hopes of enabling it to drive the Russian troops out of Donbass, he added.

The military bloc's members must prepare for the possibility that the conflict between Moscow and Kiev will last for years, Stoltenberg said, adding that the West should not stop arming Ukraine - "even if the costs are high not only due to the military support but also because of the rising energy and food prices." Stoltenberg expressed hope that the modern weapons supplied by the West will "increase the likelihood" that Ukraine can drive the Russian troops out of Donbass.

He also warned that things cannot simply go back to normal. If Russian President Vladimir Putin "learns from this war that he can simply carry on as he did after the 2008 war against Georgia," and after Crimea rejoined Russia in 2014, "then we will pay a much higher price," the secretary general warned.

In 2008, Russia fought a brief war with Georgia, after Tbilisi shelled South Ossetia and killed Russian peacekeepers.

Stoltenberg, however, once again confirmed that the bloc would not send troops into Ukraine and would only focus on strengthening its own defenses. He also warned about the risks of nuclear conflict, saying, "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be waged," while slamming Moscow over what he called its "dangerous and irresponsible" nuclear "saber-rattling."

The interview came just days after German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis visited Kiev. The EU leaders promised more support to Ukraine, including weapon shipments, as well as backing Kiev's EU candidacy.

Following the visit, however, Scholz called for continued dialogue with Russia, while Macron said he has not ruled out visiting Moscow and talking to Putin if certain conditions are met.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson also made a surprise visit to Kiev this week, offering President Volodymyr Zelensky a major training program for Ukrainian forces, with the potential of training up to 10,000 soldiers every 120 days.

Russia attacked Ukraine in late February, following Kiev's failure to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow's eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk.

The Kremlin has since demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led NATO military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied claims it was planning to retake the two republics by force.


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