NATO nations intend to approve more assistance for Ukraine’s defense against Russia’s incursion, including weaponry to repel a future chemical or biological assault.
The support is critical to protect the alliance’s own member nations, which would also be contaminated if Russia used a chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear (CBRN) weapon against Ukraine, said Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg during a televised press conference from Brussels on Wednesday.
“Any use of chemical weapons would fundamentally alter the character of the fight, would be a flagrant breach of international law, and would have far-reaching implications,” Stoltenberg said. “I believe the most crucial message to send is that the use of chemical weapons is unacceptable.”
Stoltenberg could not immediately offer details on what the CBRN help would entail, but did say it will be one of several topics discussed in Thursday’s scheduled conference with leaders from the 30 member countries. During the meeting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will electronically address NATO leaders in a secret session.
Countries are anticipated to accept increased cybersecurity aid for Ukraine, as well as further help for non-NATO members Georgia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. China’s participation in the Ukrainian war will also be highlighted.
“Allies are concerned that China could provide material support for the Russian invasion,” Stoltenberg said.
Meanwhile, four more NATO battle groups have been deployed in Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia, and Hungary, virtually tripling the number of groups positioned along the alliance’s eastern frontier. France has volunteered to lead the force in Romania, while the Czech Republic has offered to lead the extra soldiers in Slovakia. According to a NATO spokeswoman, Bulgaria and Hungary will command the battlegroups in their respective nations.
NATO already has combat groups in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia, and Poland, and the eight battle groups will cover NATO’s boundaries from the Baltic to the Black Sea, according to Stoltenberg. Hundreds of thousands of NATO soldiers are currently on high readiness alert across the alliance, including 100,000 US forces across Europe and 40,000 forces directly under NATO command, largely in the alliance’s eastern flank, he added.
These combat units will remain in place “for as long as required,” and NATO is currently deciding how to posture its forces in the long run.
“This invasion… will have long-term security ramifications,” Stoltenberg stated. “It’s a new normal for our security, and NATO needs to adapt to that new reality.”
According to Julianne Smith, the United States’ ambassador to NATO, military advisers will offer alternatives for further force commitments in NATO’s eastern ally countries in the coming months. This is because, as a result of Moscow’s attack on Ukraine, the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act, which prohibits such deployments, is virtually null and void, she claims.
Smith said Wednesday at an Atlantic Council think tank event that “Russia is clearly in breach” of the treaty.
Before making final troop-level recommendations, NATO experts must consider how the Ukraine conflict will unfold, as well as how many soldiers Russia wants to leave in Belarus, she noted.
Smith tempered expectations about a Polish plan for a NATO peacekeeping force in Ukraine, which is set to be considered this week. While the concept is “not dead in the water,” she says it raises numerous “open problems” and would eventually clash with a vow by US President Joe Biden and other alliance leaders not to send soldiers to Ukraine.