NATO Secretary-General warns of prolonged conflict in Ukraine, affirms Ukraine’s NATO membership

IRPIN, UKRAINE - MARCH 07: Residents of Irpin flee heavy fighting via a destroyed bridge as Russian forces entered the city on March 07, 2022 in Irpin, Ukraine. Yesterday, four civilians were killed by mortar fire along the road leading from Irpin to Kyiv, which has been a key evacuation route for people fleeing Russian forces advancing from the north. Today, Ukraine rejected as "unacceptable" a Russian proposal for a humanitarian corridor that leads from Kyiv to Belarus, a Russian ally that was a staging ground for the invasion. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

On Sunday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned that the war in Ukraine is likely to continue for an extended period, emphasizing that Ukraine will eventually become a NATO member.

In an interview with the German media group “Funke”, Stoltenberg dismissed the possibility of a quick end to the Ukrainian conflict, as Kyiv continues its counteroffensive against Russia.

“Most wars last longer than expected when they start,” he cautioned. “So, we must prepare ourselves for a long-term war in Ukraine.” The military conflict, initiated in February 2022 when Russian forces invaded Ukraine, marked the first time war returned to Europe in decades.

Kyiv launched a counteroffensive in June last year against Russian-held positions in the south and east of the country, but progress has been limited. Stoltenberg expressed hope for a swift peace but stressed, “At the same time, we have to realize that if President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainians stop fighting, Ukraine will disappear.”

He continued, “If President Putin and Russia lay down their weapons, then we get peace.”

Regarding Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO, Stoltenberg stated, “There is no doubt that Ukraine will eventually become a member of NATO,” adding that Kyiv “came closer to NATO” during the alliance’s summit in July.. Stoltenberg emphasized the need for security guarantees for Ukraine once the war ends, or else “history may repeat itself.”

NATO leaders, during their summit in Vilnius in July, agreed that Ukraine could join NATO once it meets specific conditions, including implementing reforms to safeguard democracy and the rule of law, as stated by officials from the United States and Germany.

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