Status: 29.11.2023, 16:32 PM
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (l) and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Brussels. © Virginia Mayo/AP
Ukraine has recently made little progress in its efforts to reconquer occupied territories. Does it make sense to invest billions more in military support for the country?
Brussels - NATO assumes enormous Russian losses in Ukraine. According to the defense alliance, the number of Russian soldiers killed or wounded has now exceeded the 300,000 mark.
"Militarily, Russia has lost a significant part of its conventional forces," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday after an alliance meeting with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in Brussels. This included hundreds of planes and thousands of tanks.
At the same time, Stoltenberg warned against pinning high hopes on the losses leading to a quick end to the war in Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has a high tolerance threshold when it comes to victims, the Norwegian said. Russia's war aims in Ukraine have not changed. Kuleba said he came to Brussels to demonstrate to allies the importance of significantly increasing the production of weapons, ammunition and other military equipment across the board.
Estimates of the number of deaths
Stoltenberg did not say how many of the Russian casualties are dead according to NATO's assessment. Diplomats said it was estimated that there were around 120,000. In February, British intelligence officials had estimated only 40,000 to 60,000 Russian deaths. In the summer, there was talk of about 70,000 Ukrainian soldiers killed and 100,000 to 120,000 injured. These figures cannot be independently verified.
Stoltenberg paid tribute to Ukraine's successes in the defensive struggle against the invaders. The country won the battles for Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson last year and continues to inflict heavy losses on Russia this year, he said. In the meantime, the country has recaptured 50 percent of the territory occupied by Russia. In addition, the Russian fleet was pushed back in the Black Sea, which made it possible to establish routes for grain exports.
"The most important thing is that Ukraine has asserted itself as a sovereign, independent nation," Stoltenberg added. "This is an important achievement – a big win."
Message to doubters
Stoltenberg's remarks were also seen in NATO as a message to alliance members such as Hungary, which are openly questioning further military support for Ukraine in view of the recent rather static situation on the battlefield. Critics point out that the war has recently developed into a war of position and that the last Ukrainian counteroffensive did not bring the successes hoped for by some.
Again and again, there are also Russian success stories. The Russian army announced on Wednesday that it had captured another village in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine. The information could not be verified. The capture would be a setback for the Ukrainian armed forces.
Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock had already made it clear at the NATO meeting on Tuesday that from her point of view there is no reasonable alternative to further support - "as difficult, as exhausting, as deadlocked as the situation seems". Ukraine must be put in a position to enable the people of eastern Ukraine to live in peace and freedom.
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On Wednesday, she warned of waning attention to the war. "We are experiencing that the view of Ukraine is disappearing from the public eye, and that is fatal," said the Green politician. Russia's recent attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine have been harsher than ever before in the war and are aimed at causing people to freeze to death or die of thirst in winter.
That's why you now have to take a close look and set up a winter protection umbrella. As examples of German contributions, Baerbock cited the supply of Patriot air defense systems and power generators. What is needed, however, is broad participation.
Foreign ministers meet for the first time as the NATO-Ukraine Council
The consultations on Wednesday in Brussels were organised for the first time at the level of foreign ministers in the format of the new NATO-Ukraine Council. Among other things, the body is intended to enable closer cooperation until the conditions for Ukraine's admission to NATO are met. Stoltenberg said after the meeting that the allies had made recommendations to Ukraine on priority reforms. This involves the fight against corruption, the strengthening of the rule of law and human and minority rights. At the same time, a multi-year aid program is being developed to help the Ukrainian armed forces, which are still trained according to Soviet standards, in adapting to NATO standards.
Confidence at Blinken
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also tried to dispel doubts about the West's staying power. There are more than 50 states that support the defense and reconquest efforts, the American said. We remain determined to give Ukraine everything it needs.
Blinken also made it clear that he does not see the risk that the U.S. government will have to scale back its support for Ukraine because of domestic political disputes. He expects the release of fresh funds by Congress in the coming weeks, he said. Dpa