NATO tells members to put Ukraine first

The bloc’s militaries should funnel more arms to Kiev, even if this means neglecting their own needs, Admiral Rob Bauer has said

The chair of NATO’s military committee has called on member states to prioritize Ukraine’s defense over their own, declaring that additional Western aid for Kiev “cannot come a moment too soon.”

Speaking at a meeting of NATO defense chiefs in Brussels on Thursday, Admiral Rob Bauer said that “allies, if faced with a choice between meeting the NATO capability targets or supporting Ukraine… should support Ukraine.”

“Stocks can and will be replenished,” he added. “Lives lost are lost forever.”

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has issued the same directive almost verbatim before, telling member states last month that in a “choice between meeting NATO capability targets and providing more aid to Ukraine, my message is clear: Send more to Ukraine.”

Bauer’s plea, however, comes at a critical moment for Kiev’s beleaguered military. Russian troops launched a cross-border offensive into Ukraine’s Kharkov Region last Friday, capturing dozens of towns and villages and forcing Ukrainian commanders to redeploy troops that had been manning the frontline in Donbass. 

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Russian forces took fire control of the main route between Kharkov and Liptsy – a town just 20km from the city – on Thursday morning, according to the Defense Ministry in Moscow. One day earlier, Russian troops seized the village of Rabotino in Zaporozhye Region, reversing the only territorial gain of Ukraine’s ill-fated 2023 counteroffensive.

“The situation is on the edge,” Ukrainian military intelligence chief Kirill Budanov told the New York Times last week. “Every hour this situation moves toward critical.”

Despite reports that Ukrainian officials aided Russia’s advance by embezzling money set aside for the construction of defenses, Kiev has pleaded with the West for more aid to hold back the Russian offensive. At a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Kiev this week, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky claimed that his forces need two billion-dollar Patriot missile systems to defend Kharkov alone, and up to seven to cover other sectors of the frontline. 

The US is prepared to donate one Patriot missile battery to Ukraine, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday. Blinken told reporters that Washington is “actively and urgently” trying to source more Patriots from its allies, along with other air-defense systems.

READ MORE: Here’s why Russia’s Kharkov offensive is far more than just a military setback for Kiev

“That cannot come a moment too soon,” Bauer said on Thursday. “Ukraine has demonstrated to the world that it has the ability to achieve unprecedented success on the battlefield. There is nothing they cannot do. All they need… is our help.”

Despite Bauer’s claims of “unprecedented success,” the conflict has resulted in Ukraine losing four of its regions – Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson, and Zaporozhye – and almost half a million men, according to figures from the Russian Defense Ministry. Moscow has repeatedly stressed that no amount of Western weapons will change the outcome of the conflict.

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