NATO allies must plan for the possibility that the war in Ukraine could last for months or even years, military alliance chief Jens Stoltenberg warned on Wednesday.
Stoltenberg made the remarks as NATO foreign ministers met in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss how best to support Ukraine as Russian troops regroup and Moscow plots its next move. Speaking to reporters, Stoltenberg called the coming weeks a “critical phase of the war”.
“We have to be realistic and realize that it can be a long time, months or even years,” he said.
“We have to prepare for [the] long-term,” the Secretary-General added, “both when it comes to supporting Ukraine, maintaining sanctions and strengthening our defences.”
Since the start of the war in late February, NATO allies have provided Ukraine with a wide range of support, including weapons, while maintaining the position that no NATO aircraft or troops will enter. on Ukrainian territory.
Now the alliance is under increasing pressure to offer more weapons, tanks and even jets to Ukraine amid concerns over Russian atrocities against Ukrainian civilians. Another source of pressure: NATO allies expect Russia to soon launch a new push into eastern Ukraine after pulling out of Ukraine’s capital Kyiv.
Putin has made frozen conflicts a hallmark of his foreign policy for years, including in the occupied territories of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. While Russian forces failed to capture kyiv and overthrow the Ukrainian government, the NATO chief said Putin now wants to conquer and occupy more of Donbass.
“We see Russia moving forces out of the north to reinforce them, resupply them, rearm them and then move them east, where we expect a major offensive,” Stoltenberg told reporters.
Yet, he added, “we have seen no indication that President Putin has changed his ambition to control all of Ukraine.”