NATO’s support has been a “crucial factor” in enabling Ukraine to resist Russia’s invading forces, secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg has told Euronews.
Speaking on the Global Conversation, said the NATO allies are doing “as much as they can” to provide support for Kyiv.
“We are providing Ukraine with advanced anti-tank weapons, air defence systems,” he said. “And we also have to remember that the NATO allies have trained the Ukrainian army for many years, tens of thousands of soldiers who are now on the frontline. So the Ukrainian army is much better equipped, much better trained and much stronger now than in 2014, when Russia invaded for the first time. It's first and foremost the courage of the Ukrainian Army Defence Forces which is making the difference on the battleground. But the support from NATO allies is a crucial factor in enabling them to resist the invading Russian forces. And we see the effect of the weapons and the support we have provided.”
Stoltenberg also warned Russia that “any use of chemical or biological weapons or nuclear will fundamentally change the nature of the conflict”.
He was speaking to Euronews Brussels correspondent Meabh Mc Mahon.
Meabh Mc Mahon, Euronews: This week we saw a massive show of unity at NATO. Will that help stopping the war in Ukraine?
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary-general: Yes, it will help. And actually, it's already helping in providing support to Ukraine. I think President Putin has really underestimated the unity and the strength of NATO, the European Union and all of us who believe in democracy and the rule of law and the international rules-based order. Because we are standing together in imposing unprecedented sanctions on Russia, but also in providing support to Ukraine, which helps them resist invading Russian forces.
Any deliberate attack on civilians will be a war crime
Meabh Mc Mahon, Euronews: Is President Putin a war criminal?
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary-general: What we have seen is that civilians have been attacked, civilian infrastructure has been attacked, schools, hospitals and any deliberate attack on civilian infrastructure, civilians, will be a war crime. And therefore I think it is extremely important that the International Criminal Court has opened an investigation and those responsible must be held accountable. And it just highlights and underscores the importance that this war needs to end. And to end this war tomorrow. By ending the war, withdrawing his troops and engaging in good faith in diplomatic efforts
NATO allies are doing as much as they can
Meabh Mc Mahon, Euronews: And this week was all about showing support. Of course, the Ukrainians... President Zelenskyy joined the meeting virtually. He said he wants one per cent of NATO weapons. Is this doable?
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary-general: What is doable is that the NATO allies are doing as much as they can to provide support: financial support, humanitarian support, but also military support to Ukraine. And we are providing Ukraine with advanced anti-tank weapons, air defence systems. And we also have to remember that the NATO allies have trained the Ukrainian army for many years, tens of thousands of soldiers who are now on the frontline. So the Ukrainian army is much better equipped, much better trained and much stronger now than in 2014, when Russia invaded for the first time. It's first and foremost the courage of the Ukrainian Army Defence Forces which is making the difference on the battleground. But the support from NATO allies is a crucial factor in enabling them to resist the invading Russian forces. And we see the effect of the weapons and the support we have provided.
Use of chemical or biological weapons would change nature of conflict
Meabh Mc Mahon, Euronews: And this week, NATO announced it would activate the CBRN - the Joint Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence Task Force. How big a deal is this? How worried should we be?
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary-general: Well, we are concerned. But at the same time, we are sending a message to Russia that any use of chemical or biological weapons or nuclear will fundamentally change the nature of the conflict. It will be a blatant violation of international law and it will have far-reaching consequences. So this is something which is very serious. And that's also yet another reason why this war has to end. Because this is a dangerous war. It's the most serious security crisis we have been in for decades and therefore we are imposing sanctions on Russia. We are providing support to Ukraine. But we are also increasing the readiness and the presence of NATO troops in the eastern part of the alliance.
Meabh Mc Mahon, Euronews: And this CBRN task force, would it be able to protect Ukraine and of course NATO allies from a possible chemical attack?
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary-general: Well, our military commanders, they have some measures to protect NATO forces and we have more NATO forces in the eastern part of the alliance. We have also some capabilities to assist civilian authorities in dealing with chemical or biological weapons and the effects of those. And then we are providing some support to Ukraine when it comes to protective equipment and other means to protect themselves against chemical or biological weapons.
Meabh Mc Mahon, Euronews: And all this, of course, will cost money. And we've seen NATO members now they're putting their hands in their pocket. They're putting money on the table, like the Belgians have said they will put one billion Euros now towards defence spending. How much will this all cost taxpayers? As it seems this war could last a while.
Spending has made NATO stronger
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary-general: Our security doesn't come for free and we have seen over the last years, especially since 2014 tensions, going up. We have seen Russia using force against Ukraine: first illegally annexing Crimea, then destabilizing the eastern part of Ukraine, Donbas, and now fully-fledged invasion of Ukraine. And Russia is also threatening... has also threatened NATO: calling on NATO to remove all its infrastructure and all forces from the eastern part of the alliance. So we have to invest more in our security. The good news is that NATO allies are doing exactly that. We made the decision in April 2014 to increase defence spending. Since then, all NATO allies have increased. We have added in total $270 billion extra for defence, and that has made us stronger and we see that we have more capabilities, more readiness. And that's also a reason why we have been able to deploy significantly more troops in the eastern part of the alliance and more ships and more planes in the air, to make sure that there is no room for misunderstanding in Moscow when it comes to NATO's readiness to protect all NATO allies based on the core principle of NATO: one for all, all for one. An attack on one ally would trigger a response from the whole alliance. By doing that, we're not provoking conflict, but we are preventing conflict.
Meabh Mc Mahon, Euronews: OK, just finally, one brief question. President Biden was here this week and he proposed that you stay on in your job for another year. Although you were meant to move on to Norway, to the bank, how does that make you feel? Are you ready for another year of this?
Jens Stoltenberg, NATO secretary-general: I feel very privileged to be asked to continue as the secretary-general of NATO, especially now in the midst of an extremely serious security crisis, and to ensure that we continue to stand united and that the unity that was demonstrated in the meeting this week, the NATO summit this week, is something which is inspiring me to continue to stay fully focused on my task as secretary-general of NATO.