NATO chief says Ukraine war could last for years

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, center, participates in a media conference with Finland’s Foreign Minister Pekka Haavisto, left, and Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde, right, at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Monday, Jan. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Olivier Matthys, File)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with a German newspaper published Sunday that the war in Ukraine could last for years.

In the interview with Bild am Sonntag, Stoltenberg cautioned that “nobody knows” exactly how long the war will continue, reiterating that the country needs support for as long as Russia’s invasion persists.

“We must prepare for the fact that it could take years,” Stoltenberg told the newspaper. “We must not let up in supporting Ukraine. Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, but also because of rising energy and food prices. But that is no comparison to the price that the Ukrainians have to pay every day with many lives.”

U.S. lawmakers have approved more than $50 billion in total assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on Feb. 24. 

The invasion has also disrupted supply chains for some exports, namely oil and grain, exacerbating high inflation that has caused deep political problems for Democrats in the U.S. as the midterm elections approach.

Stoltenberg added that the costs would be “much higher” if Russian President Vladimir Putin believes he can “carry on” after the invasion, pointing to how he did so after Russia invaded Georgia in 2008 and annexed Crimea — a peninsula in southern Ukraine — in 2014.

In its invasion earlier this year, Russia failed in its initial objective to quickly take Ukraine’s capital city, Kyiv, and has now moved its focus to the Donbas region, an industrial heartland in the country’s east. 

Russian-backed separatists in the region have been fighting Ukrainian forces for years, and Putin declared two breakaway regions in the Donbas as independent just days before invading Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials have pleaded for more heavy weapons as they face sustained attacks in the east. President Biden last Wednesday unveiled plans to send $1 billion in security assistance already approved by Congress, including artillery, coastal defense weapons and ammunition.

“With more modern weapons, the likelihood increases that Ukraine will be able to drive Putin’s troops out of the Donbas again,” Stoltenberg told Bild am Sonntag.

When asked if people should be afraid of Russia’s nuclear capabilities, Stoltenberg told the news outlet that NATO has not seen a higher level of readiness in Russian nuclear forces.

“Still, Russia’s nuclear saber-rattling is dangerous and irresponsible,” he told Bild am Sonntag. “Putin needs to know that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be waged. Our clear signal to Russia: NATO protects all member states.”

Tags Jens Stoltenberg Jens Stoltenberg NATO russia Russia-Ukraine war ukraine Vladimir Putin Vladimir Putin

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