NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the German offer to station three Patriot anti-aircraft batteries in Poland on Friday. At the same time, he emphasized that the allies are also supporting Ukraine with modern air defense systems. In doing so, Stoltenberg indirectly rejected statements by Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak, who had called on Berlin to set up the Patriot systems directly in Ukraine. At the same time, the Norwegian reiterated that NATO personnel would not be deployed in the country “because NATO is not a party to the conflict”.
Stoltenberg thus supported the course of Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht. The SPD politician had pointed out the day before that the German Patriots were part of the alliance’s integrated air defense system. This in turn is subordinate to the Allied Commander-in-Chief for Europe even in peacetime. If the systems were brought to Ukraine, the already large holes in this protective shield would become even larger. In addition, Ukrainian soldiers would first have to be trained on the complex weapon system; this is likely to take several months.
Meanwhile, Kyiv is to receive three more German-made Iris-T defense systems in the next six months. The first of these state-of-the-art systems was stationed in the Kyiv area. According to experts, it records kill rates of ninety percent – including targets for which it was not designed at all.
Attacks on civilian infrastructure “war crimes”
Stoltenberg welcomed the Hungarian government’s public commitment to ratifying Finland and Sweden’s NATO accession early next year. Hungary and Turkey are the only ones of the thirty Member States that have not yet done so. Diplomats at the Alliance reacted cautiously to Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s announcement. They pointed out that Budapest had internally promised ratification by the end of the year. In addition, the Turkish parliament will meet for the last time in February before the parliamentary and presidential elections planned for June. It is not expected to ratify the accession of both states before then. Budapest could use this to delay its own decision, which is part of a larger game of veto threats.
The NATO Secretary General made the comments before a meeting of foreign ministers to be held in Bucharest on Tuesday and Wednesday next week. They want to discuss further support for Ukraine, countering hybrid threats from Russia, dependencies on China and help for partners in Moldova, Georgia and the Balkans. An extended G-7 meeting is also planned, which will deal with Ukraine’s precarious energy supply. Stoltenberg condemned the massive Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure and civilians as “war crimes”. “This is a cruel start to winter for Ukraine,” he said. However, the NATO Secretary General was not willing to classify Russia as a “state that abetted terrorism” – unlike the EU Parliament recently.