The head of the US-led military bloc claimed supporting Ukraine is in the interest of all member states
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said the alliance is set to expand its presence across Eastern Europe, from the Black Sea to the Baltics, hoping to send a "clear message" to Russia as fighting rages on in Ukraine.
Speaking in Romania on Monday ahead of a two-day NATO summit, Stoltenberg told reporters that Europe is facing the "greatest security crisis in a generation," stressing the need to bolster areas of "strategic importance" in retaliation for Moscow's ongoing offensive.
"In response to Russia's aggression, NATO is reinforcing its presence from the Baltic to the Black Sea. We have set up new battlegroups, including the one led by France here in Romania," he said. "Fighter jets from Canada also help to keep your skies safe and US Patriot missiles boost your defenses. This sends a clear message that NATO is here. We will do what is necessary to protect and defend all allies."
Asked about when NATO hopefuls Sweden and Finland might be admitted into the alliance, Stoltenberg said he is "confident" the bloc's 30 members will eventually approve their applications, but could not say when that would happen, as Turkey and Hungary have yet to ratify the decision. However, he noted the two Nordic states would help to "reinforce the Eastern flank, especially the Baltics," given their "well-trained and well-equipped high-end military capabilities."
A NATO foreign ministers' meeting will kick off in Bucharest on Tuesday, where Stoltenberg said members will "address ways to step up our support for Ukraine." He hailed Romania's "significant military assistance" to Kiev, claiming it is "in our own security interest" to back Ukrainian forces, while insisting: "We cannot let [Russian President Vladimir] Putin win."
Officials will also discuss the provision of new air defense systems to Ukraine, training soldiers on how to use them, as well as resupplying spare parts and ammunition for weapons already on the battlefield, the NATO chief added.
Kiev has received a long list of heavy weaponry from Western allies, with the United States alone approving more than $19 billion in direct military aid since late February, including dozens of long-range High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), more than 46,000 anti-armor platforms, and nearly 200 artillery pieces. Washington and its partners have vowed to continue such assistance, despite reports that a majority of NATO states have severely depleted their weapons and ammunition stocks after countless arms transfers to Ukraine.