NATO leaders are set to agree to station more forces in Eastern Europe to deter Russia from invading any member of their ranks and to send equipment to Ukraine to help it defend against chemical or biological attacks, the alliance’s top official has said.
Speaking Wednesday, on the eve of a series of Brussels summits focusing on the war in Ukraine, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the NATO leaders are likely to agree to send more assistance to Ukraine, including equipment to help Ukraine defend itself against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats.
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“Any use of chemical weapons would totally change the nature of the conflict, and it would be a blatant violation of international law and have far-reaching consequences,” Stoltenberg said.
He declined to say whether such an attack would be a red line that might drag NATO into the war.
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“I expect leaders will agree to strengthen NATO’s posture in all domains, with major increases in the eastern part of the alliance – on land, in the air and at sea,” Stoltenberg added.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in what he calls a “special military operation” to demilitarise and “denazify” the country. Ukraine and the West say Putin launched an unprovoked war of aggression.
‘As long as necessary’
NATO currently has around 40,000 troops from several nations under its command, a number almost tenfold higher than it was a few months ago, military commanders say.
The alliance also has 140 warships at sea and 130 aircraft on high alert. Russia’s actions, Stoltenberg told reporters, have become the “new normal for our security, and NATO has to respond to that new reality”.
The NATO chief said the forces will remain in place “as long as necessary”.
Part of the new reality has included veiled threats from Putin about the possible use of nuclear weapons and attempts at what NATO members say could be “false flag” operations to serve as a pretext for using chemical arms in Ukraine.
US President Joe Biden plans to attend the NATO meeting on Thursday, plus summits of the European Union and the Group of Seven leading industrialised economies.
As an organisation, NATO is not providing weapons to Ukraine. It aims to defend its own members from a potential Russian attack.
The 30-nation alliance refuses to send troops to Ukraine, either for combat or peacekeeping, and has said it will not deploy aircraft to protect civilians or police any no-fly zone.
But member countries are providing weapons and other assistance, individually or in groups.
Calls for China to condemn war
The world’s biggest security organisation is keen to avoid being dragged into a war with nuclear power Russia. But Stoltenberg said that beyond wreaking havoc in Ukraine, “any use of chemical weapons, or biological weapons, may also have dire consequences for NATO-allied countries”.
Stoltenberg also called on China to condemn Russia’s war in Ukraine and to decline from providing “material support” for Moscow.
China has not condemned Russia’s invasion, though it has expressed concern about the war. Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Le Yucheng said on Saturday that Western sanctions against Russia were getting “more and more outrageous”.
“Beijing has joined Moscow in questioning the right of independent nations to choose their own path. China has provided Russia with political support, including by spreading blatant lies and disinformation, and allies are concerned that China could provide material support for the Russian invasion,” Stoltenberg said.