Avoiding ‘full-scale war’ with Russia is top priority, says Jens Stoltenberg
One of NATO’s main objectives in the Ukrainian conflict is to prevent a “full-scale war” with Russia, the alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Thursday.
“In this conflict, NATO has two tasks: to support Ukraine and to prevent the war from escalating into a full-scale war between NATO and Russia,” said Stoltenberg in a speech delivered in Norway.
The head of the military bloc called the Russian-Ukrainian conflict a “the most dangerous situation in Europe since the Second World War” adding that Moscow must not be allowed to win. “If Russia wins the war, [Russian President Vladimir] Putin will be convinced that violence works. Then other neighboring countries could be next,” Stoltenberg supported.
Since the start of the Russian military operation on February 24, Ukraine has received substantial military aid from NATO countries, with billions of dollars worth of armaments dumped into the country – which Moscow has criticized Many times.
In July, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in an interview with RT that Ukraine was “pump” with Western military equipment, and moreover, “forced to use these weapons in increasingly risky ways”, thus preventing Kyiv from making “any constructive approach”.
In his speech on Thursday, Stoltenberg claimed that Putin ultimately failed to achieve his goals, because instead of NATO reducing its presence in Eastern Europe and slowing its expansion, the alliance became “stronger and more consolidated” with the imminent accession of Sweden and Finland.
Strengthening defenses on NATO’s eastern flank is crucial, in the context of efforts to prevent a Russian victory in Ukraine, the Secretary General stressed. Nevertheless, he reiterated that the alliance was not “a party to the conflict” and will not send troops to Ukraine.
In an earlier interview with Norwegian state broadcaster NRK, the NATO chief stressed that the alliance was not obliged to intervene in the conflict because Ukraine is not a member state. “We have a responsibility to support Ukraine, but we also have a responsibility to ensure the security of all nations for which NATO is responsible,” he said.
Before launching its operation, Russia repeatedly stated that it viewed NATO’s eastward expansion as a threat to its national security.
In December 2021, Moscow appealed to the United States and the alliance for legal guarantees that NATO would cease its expansion and refrain from deploying weapons systems capable of deeply striking Russian territory. However, NATO replied that it was up to its members and the candidates for membership to decide whether or not to join the alliance.
Stoltenberg was speaking at an annual camp held on the island of Utoya by the youth wing of the Norwegian Labor Party, of which he was leader until 2014. The island made headlines in 2011, when Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Breivik opened fire on the camp after detonating a truck bomb at a government building in Oslo to distract police. The massacre left 77 people dead.