NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg speaks at a press conference ahead of the alliance’s defense ministers’ meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels on March 15, 2022.
Kenzo Tribouillard | AFP | Getty Images
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war in Ukraine “immediately”, adding that his attempts to undermine the alliance had failed.
President Putin must stop this war immediately [and] doing diplomacy in good faith,” Stoltenberg said at an extraordinary meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels, Belgium.
At the same time, he said the military alliance had agreed to double aid to Ukraine by providing further military supplies, financial aid and humanitarian aid.
Stoltenberg said member states would expand their defenses over land, air, sea and space in response to the “new reality for our security”, and welcomed new funding commitments from Germany and Denmark.
“President Putin’s aim was to undermine NATO. What he has done is strengthen NATO… He gets more NATO on its borders,” he said.
When asked if NATO had changed its stance on accelerating Ukraine’s application, Stoltenberg said, however, that the alliance was unmoved.
“Our message to Ukraine is the same as it has been for years … it has its own right to choose its way,” Stoltenberg said at a news conference.
“It is up to them whether they decide to join NATO,” he continued, adding that member states would then vote on the application. “It is not up to Russia to try to veto such a trial.”
The comments come hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the US Congress via video conference, calling for more aid to help his troubled country fight the invasion by Russia.
In a nearly 20-minute speech, Zelenskyy once again called on the US to introduce a no-fly zone over Ukraine in an effort to stem the Russian attacks that have killed thousands of people.
“Is this a lot to ask to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people?” he said from the Ukrainian capital Kiev. “Is this too much to ask?”
Western allies have so far resisted Ukraine’s calls for a no-fly zone, arguing that doing so would bring NATO into direct conflict with Russia — a move that member states say would mark the official start of World War III.
Zelenskyy acknowledged that and offered an alternative: providing additional weapons and humanitarian support alongside even tougher sanctions against Putin and his inner circle.
US President Joe Biden is expected to announce hundreds of millions of dollars in additional aid to Ukraine later on Wednesday and is in Brussels next week for a meeting of NATO leaders.
Ukraine is engaged in ongoing negotiations with Russia to end the conflict which has now reached its 21st day.
Earlier Wednesday, Moscow hinted that Ukraine would aim to become a so-called neutral state, akin to Sweden or Austria. Under the proposals, Ukraine would be allowed to have its own limited army, but would be barred from its ultimate goal of joining NATO.
“The Russian Federation believes that the Swedish version of a neutral state in Ukraine can be seen as a compromise,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.
Putin had accused Kiev on Tuesday of not taking a compromise seriously.