“The Black Sea is very important for NATO, we are monitoring the situation there carefully“, the Secretary General of the pact, Jens Stoltenberg, told the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs today.
“We condemn Russia’s withdrawal from the grain deal and welcome Turkey’s efforts to restore implementation of the agreement“, he added. Stoltenberg noted that the allies’ air surveillance over the Black Sea had been expanded, and pact battalions were deployed in Bulgaria and Romania. “We have doubled the number of battalions on the eastern flank, we will do what is necessary to protect every inch of the alliance’s land“, the Secretary General indicated.
According to him, there are no signs of deliberate actions by Russia in the case of the fall of debris from a drone in Romania. An investigation is underway, Romania has informed NATO allies about the case, he added.
Stoltenberg insisted that the Ukrainian counteroffensive was progressing and exceeding expectations. He warned that it would be a bloody and difficult battle. According to him, it is impossible to predict how events will develop. The Secretary General did not rule out losses on the Ukrainian side and insisted that support for Kyiv should continue under all circumstances. Support for Ukraine is not an option, but a necessity, Stoltenberg summarized.
He announced that he expects NATO allies to increase defense spending by eight percent this year, which would be the biggest increase in decades.
According to him, Russian President Vladimir Putin made at least two mistakes with the invasion of Ukraine – he underestimated the Ukrainians and the alliance’s response. NATO and EU countries are providing unprecedented assistance to Kyiv with artillery, long-range missiles, air defenses, ammunition and training, he noted. Stoltenberg welcomed Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway for their expressed readiness to provide Ukraine with F-16 fighters, as well as the countries where Ukrainian pilots will be trained.
“The Ukrainians are gradually regaining captured lands, it is a difficult battle, but they broke through the Russian defense lines and are advancing“, Stoltenberg summarized. He pointed out that Ukraine’s path to NATO had been shortened by the decisions of the pact’s summit in Vilnius in July, and Kyiv would not have to implement a Membership Action Plan.
“In 2021, Putin proposed that NATO sign a document saying it would not expand any further – as a precondition for Russia not to invade Ukraine. Naturally, we did not sign such a document and did not follow his demand that NATO withdraw its infrastructure from the countries that joined the alliance after the end of the Cold War. With the war in Ukraine, Putin expected to limit NATO, but achieved the opposite – the pact has expanded its presence on the eastern flank, accepted Finland and soon expects to welcome the accession of Sweden. I expect Turkey’s parliament to ratify Sweden’s membership later this fall, as soon as possible“, added the secretary general, quoted by BTA.
Bulgaria‘s prime minister announced today that the state has started equipping the coast guard with missiles and will respond to the Russian threat: “force is answered with force“.