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10 Feb, 2024 14:02

NATO-Russia confrontation ‘could last decades’ – Stoltenberg

The US-led bloc urgently needs to increase production of ammunition, the secretary-general has said
NATO-Russia confrontation ‘could last decades’ – Stoltenberg

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has called on the bloc’s members to increase defense production in anticipation of “a confrontation” with Russia “that could last decades.” Stoltenberg has repeatedly warned that Western economies are ill-prepared for such a conflict.

With Ukraine’s counteroffensive fizzled out and Russian forces poised to capture the key Donbass stronghold of Avdeevka, media reports have for weeks highlighted the worsening shortage of men and ammunition facing Kiev. Amid warnings of “a cascading collapse along the front,” Stoltenberg told Germany’s Die Welt newspaper that NATO members must increase arms production to meet Ukraine’s demand.

“We need to restore and expand our industrial base more quickly so that we can increase supplies to Ukraine and replenish our own stocks. That means switching from slow production in times of peace to fast production, as is necessary in conflicts,” he said.

NATO recently signed contracts worth $1.2 billion to produce around 220,000 155-millimeter artillery shells, bringing to more than $10 billion the amount spent by the bloc on ammo deals in the past six months. However, the latest contracts will not be fulfilled until the end of 2025, and earlier ammo pledges to Ukraine – like the million artillery shells promised by the EU – have not been met. Meanwhile, American stockpiles have been depleted by Washington’s effort to arm both Ukraine and Israel, and a $61 billion military aid package promised by the White House remains stalled in Congress.

“NATO is not looking for war with Russia. But we have to prepare ourselves for a confrontation that could last decades,” Stoltenberg told Die Welt. “If [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wins in Ukraine, there is no guarantee that Russian aggression will not spread to other countries.” 

Stoltenberg is one of multiple Western political and military leaders to predict a looming Russian attack on the bloc. Danish Defense Minister Troels Lund Poulsen, Swedish General Micael Biden, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, and British Defense Minister Grant Shapps have all stated in recent weeks that such a conflict could break out in as little as three years.

Aside from the fact that attacking NATO territory would enter Russia into a war with the entire alliance, Russian officials have repeatedly stressed that Moscow has no geopolitical, economic, or military interests in Poland or the Baltic states.

“It is absolutely out of the question,” Putin told American journalist Tucker Carlson earlier this week. “You just don’t have to be any kind of analyst, it goes against common sense to get involved in some kind of global war. And a global war will bring all of humanity to the brink of destruction. It’s obvious.”

Putin argued that Western leaders are “trying to intimidate their own population with an imaginary Russian threat.” These predictions, he said, “are just horror stories for people in the street in order to extort additional money from US taxpayers and European taxpayers” to keep weapons and ammo flowing to Ukraine.