1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

NATO chief: Time to rethink restrictions on Ukraine weaponry

May 30, 2024

Jens Stoltenberg said it was time to "consider some of these restrictions" as allies mull allowing Kyiv to use Western weapons on Russian territory. He's following in the footsteps of several other Western leaders.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the issue of Ukraine using supplied weapons for strikes inside Russia needed to be consideredImage: Michal Kamaryt/CTK/picture alliance

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday said that he believes allies need to look at lifting restrictions on the use of weaponry provided to Ukraine.

"I believe that the time has come to consider some of these restrictions to enable the Ukrainians to really defend themselves," Stoltenberg said ahead of informal talks of NATO foreign ministers in Prague over the next two days.

Ukraine war has 'evolved' — Stoltenberg

The NATO chief explained that "in light of how this war has evolved, in the beginning almost all the fighting took place … deep into Ukrainian territory" however this had changed in recent weeks and months and that "most of the heavy fighting has taken place actually along the border between Russia and Ukraine, in the Kharkiv region."

Stoltenberg pointed out that Russian forces could "be on the Russian side of the border" with artillery, missile launchers, ammunition and fuel depots and be "more safe than they would have been if they could have been attacked also with the most advanced weapons that Ukraine has received."

Stoltenberg said that the war had been launched by Moscow and that "Ukraine has, according to international law, the right to defend themselves."

This right to self-defense, Stoltenberg said, included "striking legitimate military targets outside Ukraine." He cited Russian territory near the border area, being used to launch attacks on Ukrainian troops, as one such example. 

Ukraine asks NATO for air defenses against Russian attack

Calls for Kyiv to be allowed to strike targets in Russia

A number of NATO member states supply weapons to Ukraine without conditions on their use however others say that can only be used on Russian targets inside Ukraine's borders.

There have been growing calls for Ukraine to be allowed to use weapons that have been provided as it sees fit, in the interests of self-defense.

Earlier on Thursday Czech Foreign Minister Jan Lipavsky told reporters that Prague had "no problem with Ukraine defending itself against an aggressor" and letting Kyiv use munitions supplied by his country to attack targets on Russian territory.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday, spoke in favor of allowing Ukraine to attack Russian positions inside Russia with Western weapons during his state visit to Germany.

Macron that Ukraine should be allowed to "neutralize military sites where missiles are fired," in comments made alongside German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.

A more cautious Scholz said he had no legal objection to Macron's position and said Ukraine was "allowed to defend itself."

The UK says Ukraine should be allowed to determine how to use British weapons and this includes having the right to strike targets inside Russia.

On Wednesday, US State Secretary Antony Blinken said that policy on how Ukraine uses American weapons was constantly evolving. He suggested that Washington was mulling the idea of allowing Ukraine's use of US weapons in attacks on Russian territory.

Ukrainian strikes on Russian soil?

Hungary labels idea "crazy"

Hungary's leadership however is not as taken with the prospect of strikes taking place inside Russian territory, with Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto saying it was a "crazy idea for the Ukrainians to fire Western weapons into Russia's interior." 

"I think it's a crazy idea because, as we've seen so far, the Russians will fire back," he said in a video posted by Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs.

Russia meanwhile has warned Ukraine's allies against allowing Kyiv to launch strikes on Russian territory using Western weapons.

"It will ultimately be very damaging to the interests of those countries that have chosen the path of escalating tensions," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Thursday.

kb/msh (dpa, AFP, Reuters)