NATO defence ministers attending a two-day meeting starting Wednesday will discuss beefing up weapons supplies to Ukraine, and Sweden and Finland’s applications to join the transatlantic military alliance, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.
The meeting, less two weeks before a summit of NATO leaders in Madrid, comes with Kyiv imploring the West to send more and heavier weapons to help fend off Russia’s onslaught in eastern Ukraine.
“Allies are committed to continue providing the military equipment that Ukraine needs to prevail, including heavy weapons and long-range systems,” Stoltenberg said.
He added that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy would be invited to address the June 29-30 Madrid summit, either in person or by video link.
Increased arms supplies cannot come soon enough for the Ukrainian forces battling to keep Russia from taking control of their country’s industrial east after more than three-and-a-half months of war.
In his nightly address to the nation, Zelenskyy pleaded Tuesday for more and faster deliveries of Western arms, specifically asking for anti-missile defense systems.
U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is hosting a meeting Wednesday of some 50 nations at NATO’s Brussels headquarters to discuss weapons deliveries to Ukraine.
Ukrainian Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Malyar said Tuesday that the invaded nation’s military had received only around 10 per cent of the Western weapons it had requested “to create parity with the Russian army.”
“No matter how much effort Ukraine makes, no matter how professional our army, without the help of Western partners we will not be able to win this war,” Malyar said in a televised news conference.
She said Ukraine uses 5,000 to 6,000 artillery rounds a day, while Russia uses 10 times more.
The defence ministers meeting this week also plan to discuss moves to beef up forces along NATO’s eastern flank, which have gathered pace since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Stoltenberg would not commit to a timeframe for Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is blocking the membership bids as he accuses the Nordic nations of supporting Kurdish militants deemed by Turkey to be terrorists.
“My aim is to solve this issue as soon as possible, but since we are several nations involved in this process, there is no way to tell you exactly when we will solve it,” Stoltenberg said.
Because of Turkey’s concerns, “this will take some more time than we originally expected,” he said.
U.K. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said at a meeting Wednesday in Oslo that the ambition for the NATO summit in Madrid is ensuring “that Sweden and Finland are successfully on the next step towards accession into NATO.”
“I think it is very important we listen and understand Turkey’s concerns and work to a position where Turkey will support the accession and indeed that we can mitigate any of those concerns,” Wallace said.