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Defense Ministers to Address NATO's 'Race for Logistics'

NATO is in a race for logistics, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters as he previewed this week's Defense Ministerial meeting in Brussels, today. 

A man gestures as he speaks. The sign behind him indicates that he is at NATO headquarters.
Stoltenberg Remarks
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holds a news conference on the eve of the Defense Ministerial meeting in Brussels, Feb. 13, 2023.
Photo By: NATO photo
VIRIN: 230213-O-D0439-002

Defense ministers will gather at alliance headquarters to discuss how to best strengthen NATO's deterrence and defense, and how to best supply Ukraine the arms and training its military needs to defeat the Russian invaders. 

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III is traveling to Brussels to represent the United States at the meeting and also to convene a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group. 

It has been a year since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops into neighboring Ukraine and tens of thousands have died in the unprovoked invasion. Thousands of Ukrainian civilians have been killed and millions of Ukrainians have fled their homeland. 

Acting on intelligence information, the NATO allies began beefing up forces in the Eastern part of the alliance even before the attacks of February 24, 2022. The United States now has around 100,000 service members based in Europe, with many in the Eastern countries that border Russia. Since then, nations around the globe have rallied to Ukraine, seeing Russia's attack for what it is — a power grab, looking to overturn the international rules-based order. 

"We will step up and sustain our support for Ukraine," Stoltenberg said during a news conference. "Almost one year since the invasion, President Putin is not preparing for peace, he is launching new offensives." 

Two airmen watch in an open aircraft as a vehicle moves a large piece of infrastructure into the plane.
Infrastructure Assist
Airmen assigned to the 437th Aerial Port Squadron load critical infrastructure equipment into a C-5 Super Galaxy aircraft at Joint Base Charleston, S.C., Jan. 31, 2023. The Air Force partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy to deliver critical equipment to Ukraine to bolster the nation’s energy infrastructure.
Photo By: Air Force Airman 1st Class Christian Silvera
VIRIN: 230131-F-XY111-1017Y

It is in the interests of all nations that Ukraine continues to receive this aid. "It is clear that we are in a race of logistics," he said. "Key capabilities like ammunition, fuel and spare parts must reach Ukraine before Russia can seize the initiative on the battlefield. Speed will save lives." 

Putin cannot be allowed to win and reshape the rules-based order. If that happens "the message to him and other authoritarian regimes is that force is rewarded," the secretary general said. "That would make the world more dangerous and all of us more vulnerable." 

NATO has already done much, but the defense ministers will look to the longer term. The alliance doubled the number of battle groups in the east from four to eight, all backed by major air and naval power. "Now we need to ensure we have the right forces and capabilities for the longer term," he said. "So, I expect allies will agree [to] new guidance for NATO defense planning. This will be a key driver of capability changes and ensure credible deterrence and defense in the years to come." 

The defense ministers will also look at ways to increase defense industrial capacity and replenish stockpiles. "The war in Ukraine is consuming an enormous amount of munitions, and depleting allied stockpiles," Stoltenberg said. "The current rate of Ukraine's ammunition expenditure is many times higher than our current rate of production, and this puts our defense industries under strain." 

A man walks beside a row of tanks.
Bradley Convoy
A convoy of Bradley fighting vehicles are loaded onto the ARC Integrity vehicle carrier at the Transportation Core Dock in North Charleston, S.C., Jan. 25, 2023. More than 60 Bradleys were shipped by U.S. Transportation Command as part of the U.S. military aid package to Ukraine.
Photo By: Oz Suguitan, U.S. Transportation Command
VIRIN: 230125-F-SK383-2460

He said the wait time for large caliber ammunition has increased from 12 to 28 months. "We need to ramp up production, and invest in our production capacity," he said. 

"We have decided to establish a new coordination cell at NATO headquarters, to map our vulnerabilities, and engage with industry," he said. "This will support our efforts to prevent and counter threats to critical infrastructure, including undersea cables and pipelines." 

Stoltenberg welcomed the recent announcements on new tanks, heavy weaponry and training for Ukraine. "I look forward to further deliveries," he said. "Our message is clear: NATO stands with Ukraine, for as long as it takes." 

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