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Ukraine war: Kyiv calls on NATO for air defense help

November 29, 2022

NATO foreign ministers are meeting in Bucharest to discuss more aid for Ukraine over the winter. Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would not back down in its support for Kyiv.

US Patriot missile defense batteries newly installed at the Rzeszow airport located near the Poland-Ukraine border in Rzeszow, Poland
Ukraine asked NATO allies send more air defense systems to protect against Russian missilesImage: Agnieszka Majchrowicz/AA/picture alliance

Ukraine on Tuesday urged its Western partners to boost its air defense system capabilities and supply transformers to fend off Russian attacks on its energy infrastructure.

"We need air defense, IRIS, Hawks, Patriots, and we need transformers," Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told reporters on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Bucharest.

"If we have transformers and generators, we can restore our energy needs. If we have air defense systems, we can protect from the next Russian missile strikes. In a nutshell: Patriots and transformers is what Ukraine needs the most."

Russia 'attacking civilian targets' after military setbacks

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the military alliance expects more missile attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine in response to Moscow's military setbacks.

Russia is "now attacking civilian targets, cities, because they're not able to win territory and to avoid Ukraine solely liberating more and more territory," Stoltenberg said as NATO foreign ministers gathered in the Romanian capital to discuss future support for Ukraine and the strengthening of the eastern flank of the alliance.

'We will not back down,' says Stoltenberg

Stoltenberg also said NATO must not waver in its commitment to Ukraine and "continue to stand for Ukraine as long as it takes. We will not back down."

"The main focus is supporting Ukraine and ensuring President [Vladimir Putin] doesn't win," he said, adding that Ukraine could only gain acceptable terms if it were to advance on the battlefield.

Speaking later to journalists, Stoltenberg said the meeting would be "very substantive," covering NATO's resilience on its eastern frontiers as well as support for Ukraine.

In their two days of meetings, ministers are expected to discuss a particularly urgent need for help with power provision after more Russian attacks on the country's energy infrastructure. NATO allies had already delivered generators and spare parts to help Ukraine rebuild damaged facilities, Stoltenberg said, with more help on its way.  

Russia 'failing on the battlefield'

"The message from all of us will be that we need to do more," said Stoltenberg. "Russia is actually failing on the battlefield. In response to that they are now attacking civilian targets, cities because they're not able to win territory," he added. 

Ahead of the meeting, the NATO chief also said he was hoping to see members "to further step" up the provision of more air defense equipment, ammunition, and spare parts training to Ukraine. Stoltenberg also said he expected pledges from member nations to provide more training and non-lethal supplies such as warm clothing, medicines, and drone-jamming systems.

Patriot missiles for Ukraine?

Can Ukraine join NATO?

Romania is hosting the two-day event at the capital city of Bucharest's Palace of the Parliament. It is at that same venue where, in April 2008, then-US President George W. Bush persuaded his allies to open NATO's door to Ukraine and Georgia, despite strong objections from Moscow.

On Tuesday, the alliance renewed its commitment to one day include Ukraine.

"NATO's door is open,'' NATO chief Stoltenberg said, referring to North Macedonia and Montenegro's recent addition to the alliance, as well as the imminent membership of both Finland and Sweden.

"Russia does not have a veto'' on countries joining, Stoltenberg said. "We stand by that, too, on membership for Ukraine."

No concrete progress, however, was made on the ground.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis told DW that now was the right time to talk about Ukraine joining NATO.

"And I'm talking about it because when we're thinking about what will happen after the war new architecture, new security architecture will need to be created in the European continent because it was damaged," he said.

Landsbergis said this is felt more acutely in Lithuania, as it shares a border both with Russia and Belarus, which makes the Baltic nation "less secure." He stressed that for his country, NATO's collective defense strategy, as per Article 5, is the best security solution.

'Long, hard winter ahead'

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy earlier warned Ukrainians of a long, hard winter, saying that the Russians would attack "as long as they have missiles."

A working dinner between the NATO chief, alliance foreign ministers, and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba was planned for Tuesday evening.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock convened a meeting of the seven major industrialized nations (G7) with up to 20 partner countries on the sidelines of the NATO meeting on Tuesday afternoon. 

The energy crisis instigated by the war was the focus of the meeting. Baerbock said the participants attempted to "better understand and prioritize the most urgent needs" ahead of an international conference in Paris on December 13. 

jsi, rc/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)