NATO chief says NATO ready to support Ukraine

NATO chief says NATO ready to support Ukraine

The United Nations wants to move the country to more modern NATO standard weapons, the secretary general of the alliance said.

NATO is ready to support Kiev over a long period of time, as long as the military conflict in Ukraine will last for months and years, the alliance spokesman General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday.

Stoltenberg told a youth summit in Brussels that it is in the hands of Russian President Vladimir Putin to stop military action as he was the one who started the war. Therefore, Stoltenberg said that Western countries will continue to put maximum pressure on President Putin to end the war by sanctioning Moscow and providing economic and military support to Ukraine.

It is very unpredictable and fragile in Ukraine, but there is absolutely the possibility that this war will drag on and last for months and years, the head of NATO said.

The alliance, and its allies, are preparing to provide support over a long period of time, and also help Ukraine to transition from old Soviet era equipment to more modern NATO standard weapons and systems, Stoltenberg said.

He said that such a transition requires additional training for Ukrainian forces and better coordination of efforts between the countries that support Kiev. In this context he welcomed the US proposal to conduct monthly talks with allies from and outside NATO on Ukraine's self-defense.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin admitted earlier this week that Washington wanted to see Russia weakened to the degree that it can't do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine by helping Kiev. Moscow has warned the West not to pump up Ukraine with weapons, arguing that such actions would only lead to a prolongation of military actions and would cause longstanding problems in the future. The Kremlin made it clear that military hardware deliveries would be considered a legitimate target once they cross into Ukraine.

The NATO Secretary General also said that Ukraine will be a highly valued partner of NATO and that the alliance will support Kiev's Euro-Atlantic aspirations. However, Stoltenberg made clear that only when the military conflict ends, any concrete negotiations in regard to Ukraine's NATO membership bid would be possible.

Russia has named Ukraine's potential NATO membership and the alliance's expansion eastwards as one of the key reasons for the launch of its military operation. Russia views such developments as direct threats to its security and insists on neutral status for Ukraine. After rounds of negotiations, Kiev requests international security guarantees in exchange for neutral status. The talks between Russia and Ukraine have stalled for now. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused London and Washington of telling Kiev to backtrack on previously achieved agreements with Russia.

Russia sent troops to Ukraine in late February after Kiev failed to implement the terms of the Minsk agreements, first signed in 2014, and Moscow s eventual recognition of the Donbass republics of Donetsk and Lugansk. The German and French Minsk Protocol was designed to give the breakaway regions special status within the Ukrainian state.

The Kremlin has demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join NATO. Kiev insists that the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked and has denied that it was planning to retake the two republics by force.

The West imposed tough sanctions after Russia attacked. Moscow considers these measures unjustified and unlawful.