NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the US-led military bloc will increase its presence in the region between the Baltic and Black Seas, announcing the move ahead of a two-day summit where the alliance is expected to renew a pledge to defend Ukraine indefinitely.
Addressing reporters at a Monday a press conference alongside Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, Stoltenberg said NATO will deploy several new battlegroups in Eastern Europe, noting that such units have already been established in countries between the Baltic and Black Seas.
Stoltenberg went on to claim that additional military expenditures are necessary to defend member states from Russia, warning that Europe is facing its “greatest security crisis in a generation.”
“We need to be prepared for more attacks. That’s the reason why NATO allies have stepped up their support to Ukraine,” including with “additional air defence systems,” training and ammunition, he said.
While Moscow has struggled to maintain some of its military gains in eastern Ukraine, the NATO chief said a Russian victory must be prevented, arguing it would embolden despotic governments around the globe. “We cannot let Putin win. This would show authoritarian leaders around the world that they can achieve their goals by using military force – and make the world a more dangerous place for all of us. So, it is in our own security interests to support Ukraine,” Stoltenberg continued.
Stoltenberg’s latest comments came just one day before a meeting between NATO foreign ministers in the Romanian capital of Bucharest – where the bloc first promised to grant membership to Kiev some 14 years ago, a move immediately denounced by Moscow at the time.
This time around, top officials from NATO states are expected to pledge more arms for Ukraine, with a focus on air defenses. Though a number of Western allies have significantly depleted their weapons and ammunition stocks after months of shipments to Kiev, the aid appears set to continue in perpetuity. Last week, Stoltenberg said NATO would continue military assistance “for as long as it takes,” while Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu recently told Reuters that Western support “should be stronger; more heavy weaponry without any political caveats, also including long-distance missiles.”