NATO allies must plan for the possibility that the war in Ukraine could last months or even years, the military alliance’s chief Jens Stoltenberg warned on Wednesday.
Stoltenberg made his remarks as NATO foreign ministers gathered in Brussels on Wednesday to discuss how to best 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 this may last for a long time, for many months, for even years,” he said.
“We have to be prepared for [the] long haul,” the secretary-general added, “both when it comes to supporting Ukraine, sustaining sanctions and strengthening our defenses.”
Since the war started in late February, NATO allies have been providing a wide range of support to Ukraine, including weapons, while maintaining the position that no NATO planes or troops will enter Ukrainian territory.
Now, the alliance is under growing pressure to offer more weapons, tanks and even jets to Ukraine amid concerns about Russian atrocities against Ukrainian civilians. Another source of pressure: NATO allies expect Russia will soon launch a renewed push in Ukraine’s east after drawing back from Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital.
Putin has made frozen conflicts a trademark of his foreign policy for years, including in the occupied territories of Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. While Russian forces failed to capture Kyiv and topple the Ukrainian government, the NATO chief has said Putin now wants to conquer and occupy a larger part of Donbas.
“We see that Russia is moving forces out of the north to reinforce them, to resupply them, to rearm them and then to move them to the east, where we are expecting a major offensive,” Stoltenberg told reporters.
Still, he added, “we have seen no indication that President Putin has changed his ambition to control the whole of Ukraine.”