Ukraine Using Western Weapons on Russian Soil Won’t Make NATO a Party to War: Stoltenberg

Some allies that supply weapons to Ukraine haven’t imposed restrictions on how Ukraine should use the weapons, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said.
Ukraine Using Western Weapons on Russian Soil Won’t Make NATO a Party to War: Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels, Belgium, on May 28, 2024. (Reuters)
Ella Kietlinska
5/29/2024
Updated:
5/29/2024

Ukraine’s use of weapons supplied by its Western allies against targets inside Russia would not make NATO and its members part of the conflict, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said at a European Union (EU) meeting on May 28.

“The fact that we are delivering equipment to Ukraine doesn’t make NATO party to the conflict,” Mr. Stoltenberg said ahead of a meeting with the EU’s defense ministers.

NATO allies “have the right to support Ukraine without becoming a party to the conflict” because they are “helping Ukraine to uphold the right for self-defense.”

He explained that some allies that supply weapons to Ukraine haven’t imposed restrictions on how Ukraine should use these weapons.

However, “they don’t make NATO party to the conflict,” Mr. Stoltenberg reiterated.

“These are national decisions,” he said.

“NATO coordinates the support of military equipment and training to Ukraine.”

NATO has been working with allies, many of whom are also EU members, on “stepping up the delivery of ammunition, air defense systems, and in particular the most advanced ones, the Patriot systems,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.

The Patriot missile system is “a long-range, all-altitude, all-weather air defense system to counter tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and advanced aircraft,” according to the Army Technology website. The system is used in the United States and by more than a dozen other nations.

The EU’s foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell, who participated in the defense ministers’ meeting with Mr. Stoltenberg, said after the meeting that lifting restrictions on Western weapons used by Ukrainian forces to target military objects in Russia’s territory is an individual decision for each EU member to make.

Those member states take responsibility for their decisions, whether they decided to lift the restrictions or not, Mr. Borrell added. Some EU member states that were against it and considered it “not appropriate” some weeks ago have recently changed their minds, he said.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 touched off the worst breakdown in relations between Russia and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Right to Self-Defense

Ukraine has been invaded by Russia and, according to international law, has the right of self-defense, which includes striking targets outside Ukrainian territory and legitimate military targets inside Russia, Mr. Stoltenberg said.

During the heavy fighting in the Kharkiv region, close to the Ukrainian-Russian border, it would be “very hard and difficult for the Ukrainians to defend themselves if they cannot hit military targets just on the other side of the border,” Mr. Stoltenberg pointed out.

A mobile defense surface-to-air Patriot missile system before it is transported to Poland from Gnoien, Germany, on Jan. 23, 2023. (Annegret Hilse/Reuters)
A mobile defense surface-to-air Patriot missile system before it is transported to Poland from Gnoien, Germany, on Jan. 23, 2023. (Annegret Hilse/Reuters)
In recent months, Ukraine has carried out almost daily drone and artillery attacks—from Kharkiv—on residential areas of Belgorod, Russia, drawing warnings from Moscow.

Kharkiv also remains subject to regular Russian missile and artillery strikes.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy requested two U.S.-made Patriot missile batteries for deployment in Kharkiv at a Kyiv meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in May.

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said at a press conference on May 28 that its policy has been that it doesn’t “encourage or enable strikes outside Ukraine’s borders.”

Peace Talks

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on May 24 that peace talks with Ukraine needed to be restarted and that Russia would only deal with legitimate leaders in Kyiv. He said that the talks “would need to be based not on ultimatums, but on common sense.”

“This war can end tomorrow” if the country that started the war stops attacking Ukraine, Mr. Stoltenberg asserted, adding that Russia is instead stepping up the war.

He said that NATO’s experience shows that the results of negotiations are closely linked to strength on the battlefield.

“So, if we want a negotiated solution where Russia accepts that Ukraine has to prevail as a sovereign independent nation in Europe, then the only way to get there is to give military support to Ukraine so they can demonstrate for President Putin that he will not win on the battlefield,” Mr. Stoltenberg said.

NATO must also prevent the war from escalating beyond Ukraine and becoming “a full-fledged conflict between NATO and Russia,” and part of that is not sending NATO troops into Ukraine, Mr. Stoltenberg said.

To deter war escalation by Russia, the alliance increased its military presence on NATO’s Eastern flank in Baltic countries, Romania, and Poland, he said.

Reuters and Adam Morrow contributed to this report.
Ella Kietlinska is an Epoch Times reporter covering U.S. and world politics.