Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has called to equip Ukrainian forces with enough weapons and gear to defeat the Russian military, arguing that Kiev must deal the blows as “direct confrontation” between NATO and Moscow is still off the table.
Speaking to reporters after hosting a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and several European leaders on Tuesday, Rutte said a Ukrainian victory may still be attainable, if only the US-led military bloc provides sufficient ‘lethal aid.’
“In terms of weaponry, we stand united here that it is crucial for Russia to lose the war,” he said, suggesting that Ukraine should serve as a conduit for Western arms in order to maximize pain inflicted on Moscow.
And as we cannot have a direct confrontation between NATO troops and Russia, what we need to do is make sure that Ukraine can fight that war, that it has access to all the necessary weaponry.
The comments followed similar remarks from Stoltenberg, who said the alliance is “stepping up” to supply more arms to Kiev and that “Ukraine should have more heavy weapons.” At an upcoming NATO summit in Madrid at the end of June, he said member states “will agree [to] a major strengthening of our posture,” though did not elaborate on what that might entail.
Earlier on Tuesday, a senior Pentagon official told CNN that Washington could announce new weapons shipments as early as this week, saying that could happen when 50 nations with the ‘Ukraine Contact Group’ meet in Brussels on Wednesday. While they did not give specifics on what arms would be provided, recent US transfers have included heavy artillery, multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS), thousands of anti-tank missiles and several helicopters.
Since Russia’s invasion commenced in late February, the United States has provided tens of billions of dollars in the form of 11 separate aid packages to the Ukrainian government, flooding a chaotic battlefield with American weapons despite “almost zero” ability to track where they end up.
During an event on Monday, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks declared that Washington is ready to back Kiev for years to come, even suggesting that support could continue for up to two decades if needed.
“We’re trying to think through the kinds of both equipment but also the kind of longer term training and defense establishment efforts that they will need,” she said.
Though the US and its partners in the NATO bloc have stressed that backing Ukraine is a matter of upholding ‘democratic values’ under assault by a despotic Russian invader, officials from some member states have hinted at other motives. Western diplomats cited by the Washington Post in April noted that the alliance would rather see Ukrainians keep “fighting and dying” over “a peace that comes too early.” More recently, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that some NATO countries “see the continuation of the war as weakening Russia” and do not want the fighting to end, a view which appears to be in line with Rutte’s statement on Tuesday.