NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that we should be prepared for a long war in Ukraine.
Ukraine’s allies have sought to highlight gains from the campaign in recent weeks, but it has been going on for months without major breakthroughs. The fall will bring changing terrain conditions and the possibility that Russia will again attempt to disrupt Ukraine’s energy infrastructure.
“Most wars last longer than expected when they first started. That’s why we have to prepare for a long war in Ukraine,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with the German newspaper Berliner Morgenpost, published on Sunday.
“We all wish for a quick peace. But at the same time, we must recognize: If President Zelensky and the Ukrainians give up the fight, their country will cease to exist. If President Putin and Russia would lay down their arms, we would have peace,” the NATO chief said.
“The easiest way to end this war would be for Putin to withdraw his troops,” he added.
On the possibility of Putin using nuclear weapons in Ukraine, Stoltenberg said: “Putin’s nuclear rhetoric is dangerous and ruthless, but NATO is ready for any threat and challenge.
“NATO’s purpose is to prevent war – not least nuclear war. We have a credible deterrent.”
Ukrainian soldiers load grenades into a RAK-SA-12 small multiple rocket system near the frontline town of Bakhmut.
Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images
Ukrainian tanks train in the Chernihiv region.
The head of NATO repeated that it is only a matter of time before Ukraine will join the alliance.
“Ukraine will become a member of NATO – all the allies have made that clear,” he said, adding that Ukraine would need security guarantees when the war ends, otherwise “history could repeat itself.”
On the idea of a possible nuclear threat from the Russians, Stoltenberg said: “We have sent a clear message to Russia: A nuclear war cannot be won and must never happen. Moscow must understand that the use of nuclear weapons is unacceptable.
“We are watching very closely what the Russian military is doing. So far, we have not seen any changes in Russian nuclear forces that would prompt us to react.
Ukraine made only incremental gains in its counter-offensive against Russia, and the wins came at a great cost.
On Friday, Ukrainian troops announced that they had recaptured Andriivka villagesouth of the city of Bakhmut, the first such announcement of a recaptured settlement in weeks.
The clock is ticking for Ukraine to make a significant gain, with autumn bringing worsening weather and even tougher fighting conditions.
The United States’ top general believes Ukraine has just six weeks left before a change in weather slows its counteroffensive.
“There’s still a reasonable amount of time left, about 30 to 45 days of combat weather left,” Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Mark Milley told the BBC. Then, according to him, mud and rain would probably affect the maneuverability of the battlefield.
However, Ukraine has indicated that it is ready to fight on regardless of the weather.
Kyrylo Budanov, the head of military intelligence, acknowledged that the counteroffensive is progressing more slowly than he would like. According to him, the Russian defensive lines were well planned and heavily mined, which “complicated” the situation on the battlefield.
But while the cold weather was a reality the military could not ignore, “the hostilities will continue, the counteroffensive will continue,” he said.
The looming US elections in 2024 have also called into question how long Ukraine will continue to receive support from one of its strongest allies. NATO, and especially the US, provided Ukraine with the necessary military assistance in the fight against Russia.