NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “immediately” stop the war in Ukraine, adding that efforts to undermine the alliance had failed.
“President Putin must stop this war immediately (and) engage in diplomacy in good faith,” said Stoltenberg in a NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels.
The military alliance agreed to double down on its support for Ukraine, providing further military supplies, financial and humanitarian aid.
Putin’s attempts to undermine NATO strengthened it
Member states would expand their defenses across land, air, sea, and space in response to the “new reality for our security,” declared Stoltenberg, applauding new financing commitments from Denmark and Germany. “President Putin’s aim was to undermine NATO. What he’s done is to strengthen NATO. … He’s getting more NATO on (Russia’s) borders.”
When asked whether the alliance had changed its stance on fast-tracking Ukraine’s application, the NATO chief said it had not. “It’s up to them whether they decide to apply to NATO,” Stoltenberg continued, adding that the application would then be subject to a vote by member states. “It’s not for Russia to try to veto such a process,” he pointed out.
Zelensky’s address to US Congress
Stoltenberg’s comments came hours after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed the US Congress, via videoconference, pleading for more aid to help his country fight the Russian invasion.
In the nearly-20 minute speech, Zelensky called on the US to implement a no-fly zone over Ukraine in a bid to stem the Russian attacks, which have led to many deaths, asking, “Is this a lot to ask for, to create a no-fly zone over Ukraine to save people? Is this too much to ask?”
Western allies have been resistant to Ukraine’s appeals for a no-fly zone, arguing that it would bring NATO into direct conflict with Russia — a move member states say would mark the beginning of World War III.
Acknowledging that reality, Zelensky offered an alternative: The provision of additional weapons and humanitarian support alongside even tougher sanctions on Putin and his inner circle.
US President Joe Biden is expected to announce hundreds of millions of dollars in additional aid to Ukraine later on Wednesday.
Ukraine has been engaging in continued negotiations with Russia to bring an end to the conflict, which has now reached its 21st day.
Earlier on Wednesday, Moscow hinted that its aims would include Ukraine becoming a so-called neutral state comparable to Sweden or Austria. Under the proposals, Ukraine would be permitted its own limited army but would be prevented from joining NATO.
“The Russian Federation believes that the Swedish version of a neutral state in Ukraine can be seen as a compromise,” said Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday.
Putin on Tuesday had accused Kyiv of not being serious about seeking a compromise.