NATO wants to “remove any room for miscalculation” in Moscow about its willingness to defend all members of the alliance, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday, nearly three weeks into Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“At the meeting today, we will also not only address the immediate consequences of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, but we will also address the more long-term consequences,” Stoltenberg told reporters on the way to an extraordinary meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels. Turkiye will be represented by National Defense Minister Hulusi Akar.
The defense ministers will talk about NATO’s long-term adaptation to the “changed security environment” to strengthen the alliance’s defense and deterrence capabilities, he said.
After Russia’s early offensives in the Ukraine war largely focused on eastern and northern Ukraine, more recent attacks have hit western Ukraine, just kilometers from the border with NATO member Poland.
NATO aims to “remove any room for miscalculation or misunderstanding in Moscow about our willingness to protect and defend all allies,” Stoltenberg added.
He underlined that NATO has over 40,000 troops supported by naval and air capacities on the eastern flank of the alliance, as well as hundreds of thousands of soldiers in high alerts across NATO territory because NATO has “the responsibility to ensure that the conflict do not escalate beyond Ukraine.”
“Our presence here sends a signal to the world that we remain united in our support of Ukraine,” US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters on the way to the meeting.
He repeated NATO’s condemnation of “Russia's unprovoked and unjustified invasion” of Ukraine, underlining NATO’s support for Ukraine's “legitimate and sovereign government.”
Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov will join the NATO defense ministers at the meeting, as well as representatives from partner countries of Georgia, Finland, Sweden, and the European Union.
The Russia-Ukraine war, which began on Feb. 24, has drawn international condemnation, led to financial sanctions on Moscow, and spurred an exodus of global firms from Russia.
At least 691 civilians have been killed and 1,143 injured in Ukraine since the beginning of the war, according to the UN. It has warned, however, that the true toll is likely much higher as it has not been able to gain access to areas of increased hostilities.
Over 3 million people have also fled to neighboring countries, according to the UN refugee agency.