NATO Secretary General Stresses Continued Support for Ukraine

Stoltenberg: The Russians suffered heavy losses, but their air and naval forces are intact

Jens Stoltenberg: My term ends next fall. Reuters

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has called on Germany to rapidly increase its defense spending, saying in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine that there is a debate about whether to supply Ukraine with fighter jets. The following is an excerpt from the interview:

When I visited Ukraine last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on the West to provide his country with more long-range weapons, fighter jets, and Western tanks. Does Ukraine get enough support from NATO?

NATO allies provide unprecedented level of support to Ukraine. They support it with battle tanks, armored vehicles, modern artillery and advanced air defense systems. Germany plays a key role in this by delivering Leopard 2 tanks and air defense systems such as IRS and Patriot. In addition, NATO partners have trained and equipped nine Ukrainian brigades over the past two months. Allies deliver on what is needed.

What the Europeans and Americans are not offering, despite Ukraine's constant requests, are Western fighter jets. Is this wrong?

The supply of weapons evolved with the development of war, and at first it was very important to deliver light anti-tank weapons, then the focus was on howitzers, air defense systems, and then the focus was on tanks.

Will the issue of fighter jets also be on the table soon at the latest when Ukraine begins its counterattack?

Some countries, such as Poland and Slovakia, have already delivered fighter jets, although Soviet MiG-29s are outdated. We are constantly debating the question of whether modern Western fighter jets are also necessary, both in NATO and with Ukraine. I expect this issue to also be discussed at the NATO Defence Ministers meeting in June, but the provision of weapons is just as important as their continuation, and there is a huge amount of ammunition, spare parts and maintenance capacity that must be available every day, around the clock, seven days a week.

The Russians have the same problems. How do you assess the strength of the Russian Armed Forces?

The Russians have bad morale, bad equipment, bad training, poor logistical management, and bad military leadership, but what they lack in quality is often compensated by quantity, and we must also realize that the Russians have suffered significant losses in Ukraine in terms of equipment and personnel, but their air and naval forces are fairly intact, and the same goes for their cyber capabilities.

Do you think the Ukrainians will have enough material in time for the spring offensive to force Russian President Vladimir Putin to the negotiating table?

The Ukrainians in the north of their country in Kharkiv and in the south and in Kherson have already proven that they are capable of liberating the occupied territories, and now we are enabling them to liberate more territory, and of course the Ukrainians must make operational decisions on how and when to launch an attack.

Each NATO member state has committed to providing certain capabilities. Why not be transparent so that we know which government is meeting its obligations and which is not?

We try to be as transparent as possible, and at the same time when it comes to accurate capabilities we won't give a potential adversary the privilege of reaching all these numbers.

You wanted to step down as NATO Secretary General a year ago, and then gave in to requests from member states asking you to continue in your post for another year.

•• I am absolutely confident that the Allies will find an excellent and good successor.

Can you extend again if prompted?

A: I have no plans other than to end my term this fall.

When it comes to precision capabilities, we won't give a potential adversary the privilege of reaching all numbers.