BRUSSELS (AP) — Russia is preparing for an extended war, so NATO must prepare “for the long haul” and support Ukraine for as long as necessary, the alliance’s deputy secretary-general told military chiefs from across Europe on Wednesday.
Opening the meeting of military chiefs in Brussels, Mircea Geoana said NATO countries need to invest more in defense, ramp up military industrial manufacturing and use new technologies to prepare for future wars.
As Russia’s war against Ukraine nears the one-year mark, NATO leaders are expected to discuss how allies will expand arms, training and support supplies to Ukraine in the coming months, as well as how to expand their own defense can be further strengthened.
“We have no indication that[Russian President Vladimir]Putin’s goals have changed,” Geoana said, noting that Russia has mobilized more than 200,000 additional troops. “So we have to be prepared for the long haul. 2023 will be a difficult year and we must support Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
Separately, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday Ukraine’s western supporters would gather this week to discuss ways to deliver heavier and more advanced weapons to help the war-ravaged country in its fight against Russia.
The so-called Ukraine Contact Group meets on Thursday and Friday at Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany. It is made up of about 50 senior defense officials, including US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who work to coordinate military contributions to Ukraine.
“The main message there will be: more support, more advanced support, heavier weapons and more modern weapons,” Stoltenberg said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday. “This is a fight for our values, this is a fight for democracy, and we just have to prove that democracy defeats tyranny and oppression.”
US Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, quietly met with Ukraine’s Chief Military Officer Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi on Tuesday at an undisclosed location in southeastern Poland, near the Ukrainian border. And he is expected to share Zaluzhnyi’s concerns with other military leaders at the meeting.
Milley’s meeting with Zaluzhnyi was quickly arranged when it became clear on Monday that the Ukrainian boss would not be able to attend NATO meetings in person. He is expected to attend via video conference on Thursday.
Army Col. Dave Butler, Milley’s spokesman, said the chairman intends to describe “the tactical and operational conditions on the battlefield and the military needs therefor” to NATO chiefs.
Admiral Rob Bauer, the chairman of NATO’s military committee, told the gathering of chiefs on Wednesday that the alliance must continue to transform to withstand future combat.
“The war also showed us that you have to be able to fight tomorrow’s battles today and yesterday’s battles,” said Bauer, who is with the Royal Netherlands Navy. “Modern warfare is as much about bits and bots as it is about mud and blood.”
He pointed out that the NATO-Russia Council held its last meeting about a year ago.
“Back then we could still sit at a table,” he said, adding that now, after Russia’s brutal invasion and the war in Ukraine, “the world is a different place.”
NATO, he said, has demonstrated that it can quickly increase and relocate its military presence whenever and wherever it is needed. And he reiterated the pledge that the alliance stands ready to support Ukraine for as long as needed.
Putin, he said, “underestimated the scale and courage of the Ukrainian people, armed forces and leadership, and underestimated our unity and solidarity with Ukraine.” That alliance support, he said, has made a difference on the battlefield and will continue to do so.
Stoltenberg said at the Davos conference that it was important that Putin did not win the war and that the West would help to force him to the negotiating table with more equipment in the long term. “It is very dangerous to underestimate Russia,” he warned.
“Arms, they are the way to peace,” Stoltenberg said, but added that they had to come quickly.
“There is an urgent need. Time matters,” he said, shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the forum via video link.
Associated Press writer Lorne Cook in Strasbourg, France, contributed to this report.