NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg ruled out in an interview published on Sunday that there would be a quick end to the Ukrainian war, at a time when Kiev continues to launch its counterattack against Russia.
“Most wars last longer than expected when they first start,” Stoltenberg said in an interview with the German Funke media group, warning, “Therefore, we must prepare ourselves for a long-term war in Ukraine”.
The military conflict that began in February 2022 in Ukraine with the invasion of Russian forces brought war back to Europe for the first time in decades.
Kiev launched a counterattack last June on the positions seized by Russia in the south and east of the country, but the progress it achieved was limited.
“We all hope for a quick peace,” Stoltenberg said, adding, “But at the same time we have to realize: If President Zelensky and the Ukrainians stop fighting, Ukraine will cease to exist”.
He continued, “But if President Putin and Russia lay down arms, then we will have peace”.
Regarding Ukraine’s ambitions to join the alliance, Stoltenberg pointed out that “there is no doubt that Ukraine will eventually become a member of NATO”.
He added that Kiev “came closer to NATO” during the alliance’s summit in July.
Stoltenberg stressed, “When this war ends, we will need security guarantees for Ukraine, otherwise history may repeat itself”.
The leaders of NATO countries had agreed during the July summit hosted by Vilnius that Ukraine could join once it met certain conditions, which, according to officials from the United States and Germany, include Kiev implementing reforms to protect democracy and the rule of law.