NATO Security General Jens Stoltenberg has urged the member states to arm Ukraine for an offensive against Russia, after reassuring that there is no consensus for the country to join the military alliance while it is at war with Russia.
“The most obvious thing is to ensure they have the weapons, the supplies, the maintenance to continue to conduct the offensive,” Stoltenberg said a day before NATO defense ministers gathered in Brussels on Thursday to discuss future relations with Ukraine.
The NATO chief said he expected the bloc’s defense ministers at a subsequent meeting on Friday to agree to “substantially” ramp up the targets for the amount of ammunition each NATO member must have in stock.
So far this year, NATO countries have jointly ordered 155-millimeter shells worth $1 billion, he said.
In addition, the military bloc is also looking to approve a “defense production action plan” at a summit next month in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, in a bid to get Western defense industries to ratchet up output.
US President Joe Biden and his counterparts will also gather at the meeting in Vilnius.
Stoltenberg further said that he expects the 31-nation alliance to “agree (to) a multi-year program where we help to move Ukraine to transition from old standards, equipment, procedures, doctrines to NATO standards and become fully interoperable with NATO.”
He was also at pains to confirm the casualties caused to Western military equipment by Russian forces during the Ukraine war.
“There will be casualties, also, when it comes to modern NATO equipment,” he said.
“No one expected there to be zero casualties. The realities of this is fierce, fierce fighting.”
The war between Russia and Ukraine began in February last year, with the US-led NATO’s eastward expansion blamed for it.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly railed against Washington for driving NATO’s eastward expansion, especially its courting of ex-Soviet republics such as Ukraine and Georgia.