The Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), Jens Stoltenberg, made a surprise visit to Kiev on Thursday, marking his first visit since the beginning of the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia. During his visit, Stoltenberg emphasized that Ukraine’s place is within the alliance, and that the primary objective of NATO is to ensure that Russia loses the conflict. Stoltenberg’s visit came at a critical time for Ukraine, which has been pushing for membership in NATO as a means of bolstering its security against Russia. However, NATO has been cautious about setting specific dates for Ukraine’s accession, given Russia’s opposition to the move.
Zelensky pressed Stoltenberg for assistance with the supply of weapons, citing the urgent need for warplanes, armored vehicles, artillery, and long-range systems to target Russian depots far from the front line. Ukrainian forces have withstood Russian attacks throughout the winter and are preparing for a counteroffensive in the spring or summer. However, they require a significant amount of ammunition and weapons to do so, and Western allies of Ukraine have been hesitant to provide more supplies for fear of escalation. In this regard, Zelensky requested that Stoltenberg help overcome the reluctance of partner nations to deliver certain weapons, including long-range systems, modern aviation, artillery, and armored vehicles.
Stoltenberg acknowledged that it is essential to ensure that the weapons and systems already in Ukraine are functioning correctly, including the need for ammunition, spare parts, and maintenance. He noted that NATO allies have provided over $150 billion in aid to Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion, with $65 billion being dedicated to military assistance. The issue of Ukraine’s potential NATO membership will be a central topic of discussion at the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius, which Zelensky hopes will be a historic moment for Ukraine’s relationship with the alliance. Despite Russia’s objections, Zelensky maintains that the future of Ukraine lies within the Euro-Atlantic family, and ultimately within NATO.