NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has called on the West to prepare for a long war and warned that Ukraine is fighting for national survival. In an interview with Germany’s Funke media group published on September 17, the NATO leader argued for an increase in German military spending while cautioning that there will be no “swift end” to the major war sparked by Russia’s February 2022 full-scale invasion.
“We are all wishing for a quick peace,” commented Stoltenberg. “But at the same time, we must recognize that if President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainians stop fighting, their country will no longer exist. If President Putin and Russia lay down their weapons, we will have peace.”
With little prospect of a breakthrough toward peace in Ukraine, Stoltenberg said Germany should currently be aiming for a return to Cold War era defense spending. “During the Cold War, when Konrad Adenauer or Willy Brandt governed, defense expenditures consisted of three to four percent of economic output. We did it back then, and we must today also do it again.”
Stoltenberg’s comments underline the scale of the threat posed by Russia’s ongoing invasion as he seeks to raise the alarm over what many see as the very real danger of a genocide taking place in the heart of Europe. Russian dictator Vladimir Putin has consistently denied Ukraine’s right to exist as an independent country and has made clear his intention to extinguish Ukrainian statehood. He has openly compared his invasion to the eighteenth century imperial conquests of Russian Czar Peter the Great, and in September 2022 announced the annexation of four entire Ukrainian provinces while declaring them to be “Russian forever.”
Meanwhile, dehumanizing and genocidal anti-Ukrainian statements have become a routine feature of Russia’s heavily censored information space since the onset of the full-scale invasion. This has helped fuel widespread Russian public support for the war, according to research by Russia’s only internationally respected independent pollster, The Levada Center. Since February 2022, Kremlin policies in occupied regions of Ukraine have mirrored the genocidal rhetoric coming out of Moscow, with Russian forces accused of mass executions, forced deportations, and the systematic suppression of Ukrainian national identity.