NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned Sunday that the West must make preparations for a “long war in Ukraine,” and declaring that there is “no doubt” Ukraine will eventually join the American-led military alliance.
In an interview with the German Funke media group, the Norwegian politician threw cold water on the notion of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine coming to an end any time soon.
“Most wars last longer than expected when they first begin,” Stoltenberg said per France24. “Therefore we must prepare ourselves for a long war in Ukraine.”
“We are all wishing for a quick peace,” the NATO Secretary General continued. “But at the same time, we must recognise: if President Zelensky and the Ukrainians stop fighting, their country will no longer exist. If President Putin and Russia lay down their weapons, we will have peace.”
The comments come ahead of another planned Washington visit from President Volodymyr Zelensky next week when he will once again meet with President Joe Biden as well as members of Congress to lobby for additional military aid amid the fledgling counteroffensive against the heavily entrenched Russian forces, which are occupying large swaths of Ukrainian territory in the south and in the Donbas region. According to reports, Congress is currently considering — at the urging of the Biden administration — a further $24 billion in aid to Ukraine, which would come on top of the $113 billion in American taxpayer dollars already committed to backing Kyiv in what has devolved into a proxy war with Moscow.
On top of predicting a long conflict, Secretary General Stoltenberg, whose term in the NATO top role was artificially extended earlier this year due to the war in Eastern Europe, went on to proclaim that “there is no doubt that Ukraine will eventually be in NATO.”
At the last summit of the Western military alliance in Vilnius, Lithuania, NATO leaders agreed that Ukraine could become eligible to become a member, however, it would first have to enact reforms in order to meet the alliance’s membership criteria.
A list of “minimum requirements” laid out by the American State Department in 1997 said that prospective NATO members must demonstrate a commitment to upholding democracy through “tolerating diversity”, “showing progress” towards developing a market economy, having a military “firm civilian control”, respecting the sovereignty of other nations, and show that it is “working toward compatibility with NATO forces”.
It is unlikely for the alliance to admit a country currently at war given that it would immediately trigger Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which mandates that all members come to the defence of another member state. Questions would also probably arise over ongoing border disputes between Russia and Ukraine, given that small territorial conflicts could potentially spark a world war if the borders are not firmly determined before Ukraine potentially joins the Western alliance.