NATO secretary general: Quickest way to end Ukraine war is to lose it; but won’t bring peace

WASHINGTON — As NATO prepares to convene on Tuesday a three-day summit in Washington to celebrate its 75th birthday, the alliance is reinforcing its support for Ukraine in the ongoing war with Russia.

During a news conference with a handful of reporters Sunday previewing the summit, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said all NATO members want peace, and that can be achieved if Russian President Vladimir Putin understands he cannot win on the battlefield.

“The quickest way to end this war is to lose the war,” he said. “But that that will not bring peace. That will bring occupation.”

Stoltenberg outlined key measures NATO would take, including the establishment of a dedicated command in Germany, enhanced financial and military aid, and bilateral security agreements.

Stoltenberg emphasized these initiatives while addressing the complexities of Ukraine’s potential NATO membership and the alliance’s united front against Russian aggression.

The precise language of the final agreement of the summit regarding Ukraine’s NATO membership is still under negotiation, he said.

In April, Stoltenberg said the alliance did not expect to offer Ukraine NATO membership during the summit, but rather a “bridge” to membership.

At the summit, that “bridge” will encompass five essential components:

Security assistance command: NATO is setting up a new command in Germany, with logistical hubs in Eastern Europe, to coordinate international security assistance for Ukraine. This will involve 700 personnel led by a three-star NATO general, according to Stoltenberg.

Stoltenberg said there have been differences among allies about “the approach or types of weapons Ukraine should be delivered.” Those differences create bureaucratic delays, and the goal is to make delivery faster and easier.

“This new command will have a very robust mandate, so there will be no need for consensus on each and every delivery,” he said.

Financial pledge: Since February 2022, NATO allies have provided around $43 billion annually in military support to Ukraine. The upcoming summit is expected to extend this commitment for another year, laying a foundation for future support.

Immediate weapon deliveries: Announcements on delivering more weapons and ammunition, particularly air defense systems, are anticipated at the summit to bolster Ukraine’s defense.

While the secretary general did not offer specifics, a senior U.S. official indicated that announcements can be expected from NATO allies this week regarding the provision of F-16 aircraft to Ukraine.

Bilateral security agreements: Twenty NATO allies will have signed bilateral security agreements with Ukraine by the start of the summit, offering additional security guarantees and reinforcing collaborative defense efforts.

Interoperability: Efforts are underway to align Ukrainian armed forces with NATO standards, including a joint training center in Poland and programs on military acquisitions and procurement.

Hungary won’t participate or obstruct

Stoltenberg addressed concerns about Hungary’s stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine and its potential to block NATO decisions.

He recounted a recent visit to Budapest, where he secured an agreement with Prime Minister Viktor Orban ensuring that Hungary will not obstruct the proposed support measures for Ukraine.

Budapest will not participate in the new NATO security assistance command for Ukraine but will fulfill its other NATO obligations and contribute to the common budget, Stoltenberg said.

The secretary general highlighted NATO’s diverse engagements with Moscow even after the start of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

He noted a recent conversation between U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, underscoring the routine nature of such contacts.

Stoltenberg said NATO must function cohesively in developing new defense strategies, emphasizing unity despite differing perspectives, such as those represented by leaders like Orban.

Future relationship with the US

Stoltenberg is confident that the United States would continue to be a staunch NATO ally regardless of future election outcomes, attributing past criticisms by former president Donald Trump primarily to defense spending issues rather than NATO itself.

He emphasized that any secretary general must be able to work with all leaders within the alliance, comparing NATO to a big family that every now and then has arguments and disagreements.

Stoltenberg recounted his experience working with presidents Barak Obama, Trump, and Joe Biden, noting that despite differing political leadership, the U.S. has remained a steadfast and committed NATO ally.

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