BRUSSELS - Russia is preparing for an extended war so NATO must get ready “for the long haul” and support Ukraine for as long as it takes, the alliance’s deputy secretary general told top military chiefs from across Europe Wednesday.
Speaking at the opening of the military chiefs’ meeting here, Mircea Geoana said NATO nations must invest more in defense, ramp up military industrial manufacturing and harness new technologies to prepare for future wars.
As Russia’s war on Ukraine nears the one year mark, NATO chiefs are expected to discuss how allies can expand the delivery of weapons, training and support to Ukraine in the coming months, and how they can further shore up their own defenses.
“We have no indication that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s goals have changed,” said Geoana, adding that Russia has mobilized more than 200,000 additional troops. “So we must be prepared for the long haul. 2023 will be a difficult year and we need to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.”
U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, met quietly on Tuesday with Ukraine’s chief military officer, Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, at an undisclosed location in southeastern Poland, near the Ukrainian border. And he is expected to relay Zaluzhnyi’s concerns to the other military leaders at the meeting.
Milley’s meeting with Zaluzhnyi was quickly arranged when it became clear Monday that the Ukraine chief would not be able to attend the NATO sessions in person. He’s expected to attend by video conference on Thursday.
Army Col. Dave Butler, Milley’s spokesman, said the chairman planned to describe to the NATO chiefs “the tactical and operational conditions on the battlefield and what the military needs are for that.”
Adm. Rob Bauer, the chair of the NATO Military Committee, told the gathering of chiefs on Wednesday that the alliance must continue to transform to meet future fights.
“The war has also shown us that you have to be able to fight tomorrow’s battles, as well as yesterday’s battles, today,” said Bauer, who is with the Royal Netherlands Navy. “Modern warfare is just as much about bits and bots as it is about mud and blood.”
He noted that about a year ago, the NATO Russia Council held its last meeting.
“Back then we were still able to sit around the same table,” he said, adding that now, after Russia’s brutal invasion and war in Ukraine, “the world is a different place.”
NATO, he said, has proven it can quickly increase and shift its military presence when and where needed. And he echoed the commitment that the alliance is prepared to support Ukraine for as long as needed.
Putin, he said, “underestimated the scale and bravery of Ukrainian people, armed forces and leadership, and underestimated our unity and our solidarity with Ukraine.” That alliance support, he said, has made a difference on the battlefield, and it will continue.