NATO’s “critical” and unprecedented support in Ukraine remains ongoing, the head of the alliance said Tuesday.
“Our relationship is a very close partnership — it is a relationship, where NATO allies have proven their willingness to support Ukraine in an unprecedented way,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
“When the invasion happened, NATO was not taken by surprise. Actually, we have been preparing, we have been ready to face situations like this since we started the big adaptation of NATO in 2014,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Bucharest, Romania.
Stoltenberg reiterated that the war began in 2014, referring to Moscow’s annexation of Crimea, with Canadian troops, British troops, and US troops from NATO helping to train Ukrainian forces that year.
“The war didn’t start in February this year, the war started in the spring of 2014. And since then, NATO has implemented the biggest reinforcement, the biggest adaptation of our alliance since the end of the Cold War, with more presence in the eastern part of our alliance.
“So the reality was that when the invasion happened in February this year — compared to 2014 — the Ukrainian troops and armed forces were much better trained, much bigger, much better equipped, and much better led,” Stoltenberg said. “That’s one of the main reasons why they were able to fight back.”
Of course, the gains and the victories the Ukrainians have made, that belongs to the bravery, to the courage of Ukrainian troops and armed forces,” Stoltenberg added. “But it has been critical that they have received support from partners in NATO, and we will continue to do so.”
“The main focus now is on supporting Ukraine, ensuring that President Putin doesn’t win, but that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign, independent nation in Europe.
“It is a mixture of partly more presence in the east, we have already doubled the number of groups, but also working on how to scale those battle groups up from battalions to brigade size levels quickly.”
“So the combination of more presence, earmarked troops, higher readiness, prepositioned equipment, all of that will strengthen our ability to react and act.
“The purpose of all this, is every day, 24/7, to deliver credible deterrence and defense. And by doing that, we are not provoking conflict, but we are preserving peace, preventing a conflict.”
Stoltenberg added that the alliance is working to build on the agreement made at the NATO summit in Madrid earlier this year.