NATO has to plan for a conflict with Russia since there is “no guarantee” that Moscow will not expand its ongoing war in Ukraine, according to Jens Stoltenberg, the organization’s secretary general.
“NATO is not looking for war with Russia. But we have to prepare ourselves for a confrontation that could last decades,” he said in an interview with German daily Welt am Sonntag on Feb. 10.
“If Putin wins in Ukraine, there is no guarantee that Russian aggression will not spread to other countries,” Mr. Stoltenberg said, pointing out that the best defense right now is to support Ukraine and invest in the military capabilities of NATO. “Deterrence only works if it is credible. As long as we invest in our own security and remain united, we will continue to deter any form of aggression.”
He believes that the production of more weapons and ammunition is one of the key challenges facing the continent over the coming years.
“Putin is preparing Russia’s economy for a long war. He has ordered a 70 percent increase in Russian military spending and remains committed to acquiring missiles from Iran and North Korea,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.
“Because Russia is gearing its entire economy toward war, we also have to do more for our security.”
He called for restoring and expanding Europe’s industrial base rapidly so that the region can boost arms supplies to Ukraine and replenish its stocks.
“That means switching from slow production in times of peace to fast production, as is necessary in conflicts,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.
Since Russia’s industrial strength and economy are dwarfed by the West, Europe has the means to surpass Moscow in both investment and production of weapons, he said.
However, if this opportunity is not taken, Russia can benefit from the situation and regional security will be at risk, according to Mr. Stoltenberg.
The NATO chief praised the German call to provide more support for Ukraine, saying all allies “must step up.”
Germany has committed to investing 2 percent of the country’s economic output in the defense sector for 2024, which Mr. Stoltenberg said is “indispensable for Europe’s security.” Having this level of defense spending is “critical to keeping our countries safe,” he said.
He is the latest NATO official to warn about a potential war between Europe and Russia. Speaking to reporters last month, Lt. Adm. Rob Bauer, chair of the NATO Military Committee, said citizens should prepare for a conflict that may require a massive change in their lives, according to The Telegraph.
“We have to realize it’s not a given that we are in peace. And that’s why we [NATO forces] are preparing for a conflict with Russia. But the discussion is much wider. It is also the industrial base and also the people that have to understand they play a role,” Mr. Bauer said.
He praised Sweden for asking its citizens last month to brace for war, which resulted in a spike in people volunteering for the nation’s defense services.
“It starts there. ... The realization that not everything is plannable and not everything is going to be hunky-dory in the next 20 years,” Mr. Bauer said.
Russia Expanding WarWhile European leaders warn about a potential war with Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin insisted in a recent interview with Tucker Carlson that he has “absolutely” no interest in expanding the ongoing conflict with Ukraine to other nations.
“They’re trying to intimidate their own population within an imaginary Russian threat. ... This is an obvious fact. ... They’re trying to fuel the Russian threat,” Mr. Putin said, adding that he would send troops to Poland only if “Poland attacks Russia.”
“Why would we do that? We simply don’t have any interest. It’s just threat-mongering.”
Expanding beyond Ukraine is “absolutely out of the question,” he said.
“You don’t have to be any kind of analyst. It goes against common sense to get involved in some kind of a global war. And a global war will bring all humanity to the brink of destruction. It’s obvious.”
During a recent campaign rally in South Carolina, former President Donald Trump raised the issue of the United States defending NATO allies against the Russian threat.
“While these countries have been increasing their contributions since I took office, they must do much more,” he said at the time.
According to data from NATO, the United States and Germany were the top contributors to the group as of April 2023. The United States contributed 16.19 percent toward the organization’s budget, with Germany also providing 16.19 percent. The UK came in second at more than 11 percent, France at more than 10 percent, and the remaining nations in single digits.