September 8, 2022 By Lorne Cook, The Associated Press
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany (AP) — NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warned Thursday that Ukraine and its supporters face a tough winter in coming months but he urged the public in Western nations to keep faith in their efforts, saying that the war is at a critical point as Russia loses some territory.
“We need at least to be prepared for this winter, because there is no sign of Russia giving up its goal of taking control of Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told The Associated Press on the sidelines of a U.S.-led Ukraine backers meeting in Ramstein, southwest Germany.
“The war in Ukraine is approaching a pivotal moment where we see that the Russian offensive in Donbas has stalled. We see that the Ukrainians have been able to fight back, to strike back and regain some territory,” he said.
Hardest of all is the task facing the Ukrainian armed forces, more than six months into a conflict once seen by Russian President Vladimir Putin as a military intervention likely to last a few days, but which has now turned into a grinding war of attrition.
While Ukraine has sought weapons and ammunition, it now needs winter equipment. During Thursday’s meeting, German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht said her country would deliver electricity-generating equipment, tents and other material. But more is needed.
“Winter’s coming, and winter’s going to be hard on the battlefield in Ukraine. We know that the size of the Ukrainian army is now roughly three times as big as what it was last winter,” Stoltenberg said. “They are in urgent need for more winter uniforms, for generators that create electricity, warmth, and also of course tents and other things that can help them through the winter.”
Stoltenberg also said that NATO is working with the defense industry to explore ways to boost arms production to better meet Ukraine’s needs and replenish the arsenals of allies who have been providing all kinds of weapons and defense systems.
“We saw that during the COVID crisis, the industry was able to ramp up production of vaccines and now we need to have, to some extent, the same approach; ramp up quickly production of weapons and ammunition,” he told the AP.
Turning to U.S, Canadian and European publics suffering under high energy prices, inflation and concerns about food supplies, Stoltenberg urged them to keep the faith, saying that the price of ending support now would be a price that’s too high to pay.
“I understand that many people are frustrated and actually feel the pain in NATO countries with increasing energy prices, the cost of living. But at the same time, we have to remember that the price we pay is measured in money, in U.S. dollars or pounds or euros, while the price that Ukrainians are paying is measured in lives lost every day,” he said.
“If President Putin wins in Ukraine, then the world will become more dangerous. Then he will see that he is rewarded, that he can get this way by using brutal military force, by invading a neighbor, by blatantly violating international rule and attacking innocent civilians,” the former Norwegian prime minister said.
Stoltenberg wouldn’t be drawn on how long the conflict might run for, but he said that it will end at some point, at the negotiating table. He said that Ukraine, as a sovereign, independent country, must be helped through this war to strengthen its hand in any future peace talks.
“If President Putin and Russia stop fighting, then we will have peace. If Ukraine stops fighting, then Ukraine will cease to exist as an independent nation. So therefore, we need to continue to provide support,” he said.
Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed to this report.