NATO Defence Ministers' Meeting, February 14-15

Call for Escalation of Arms Exports to Ukraine and Military Spending

Margaret Villamizar

A meeting of defence ministers from NATO's 30 member countries was held in Brussels February 14-15. The ministers from Sweden, Finland and Ukraine were also in attendance. The meeting took place just before the NATO-linked Munich Security Conference. On the agenda of both was presenting disinformation about the U.S./NATO proxy war in Ukraine and the prospects of winning it by defeating Russia on the battlefield at all costs, rather than seeking a negotiated end to the conflict.

Published speeches of NATO's Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and reports on NATO's website suggest that a main item on the meeting's agenda was the need for members of the alliance to "strengthen our defence industry" so production is ramped up to be able to provide the necessary ammunition to Ukraine and also to replenish their own stocks.

"It is clear that we are in a race of logistics," Stoltenberg said in a pre-meeting press conference. "Key capabilities like ammunition, fuel and spare parts must reach Ukraine before Russia can seize the initiative on the battlefield. Speed will save lives."

Adding to the sense of urgency, he said Ukraine was using up ammunition several times faster than NATO and its aligned arms industries can provide it, even as Russia is ramping up its military offensive. The waiting time for large-calibre ammunition, he said, has gone from 12 to 28 months, and orders placed now will only be delivered in two-and-a-half years' time.

The ministers were also to begin discussions about a proposed new defence investment pledge -- a reference to the two per cent of gross domestic product (GPD) NATO members are expected to dedicate to military spending. Given that less than a third of member countries have so far met the target which was agreed to in 2006, the pressure for all to fall into line now will intensify. Presumably what measures will be taken will be decided at the July Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania where NATO Heads of State and Government will meet.

Using Canada as an example, according to an estimate by the parliamentary budget officer cited in an article by the Canadian Press, it would take an injection of an extra $75 billion in military spending over the next five years on top of the billions already being spent to reach two per cent of GDP!

Another thing the NATO meeting was to address according to public statements is protection of critical infrastructure, "in particular undersea infrastructure, off-shore infrastructure, because we have seen that these undersea cables, pipelines are vulnerable," said Stoltenberg. Whoever blew up Russia's Nordstream gas pipeline to Germany would be well aware of this.

Asked by a reporter after the meeting why the public should believe that NATO is not at war with Russia, the Secretary General said that neither NATO nor NATO Allies are party to the conflict. What they are doing is providing support to Ukraine, which is defending itself. The type of support NATO has given has evolved and will continue to evolve, he said, so that Ukraine gets the weapons it needs to be able to retake territory and win the war.

In conjunction with NATO's ministerial, the U.S.-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group comprised of all 30 NATO members and 24 other countries held its monthly meeting in the same venue. It is said to concern itself with coordinating the donation of military aid for Ukraine and getting it sent there, or first to countries such as Poland, where soldiers from Ukraine receive training on how to use the donated equipment, like the Leopard tanks they are being provided with.

At its January meeting the Contact Group supported the sending of heavy offensive weaponry to Ukraine, in preparation for a planned spring offensive. At this meeting, presumably Ukraine's request for fighter jets would have been discussed.

At a press conference following their meeting, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin referred to the challenges NATO has been experiencing with the different equipment and weapons donated to Ukraine. Much of it is reportedly needing repair, lacking spare parts and anything but battle ready. "It's a monumental task to bring all those systems together, get the troops trained on those platforms, to make sure we have sustainment for all of those systems and get those systems into the fight," he said.

General Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. military, who also chairs the Contact Group, attempted to cover up the looming problems the proxy war the U.S. is leading faces, such as where the ammunition will come from and when, but also how they will get replacements for the tanks and other equipment that gets destroyed. He said Ukraine was winning the war and that Russia "has lost strategically, operationally, tactically" and was paying "tremendous costs" in terms of high casualties.  If this bravado was to counter the growing popular discontent and anger over the devastation caused by U.S./NATO's refusal to accept anything but a military victory over Russia, no matter how unrealistic, and no matter the cost to be paid by the people of Ukraine, other parts of Europe and around the world, it will not work. Despite whatever enthusiasm governments like those of Canada and the powers of old Europe may have for being "all in" with the war to crush Russia, there are plenty of cracks in NATO's edifice that have only widened thanks to the economic sanctions supposedly targeting Russia that are having the effect of punishing people and businesses in Europe even more. 

On the heels of NATO's meetings tens of thousands of voices saying No! to the U.S./NATO proxy war against Russia and calling for their countries to get out of NATO and for the alliance to be dismantled were heard loud and clear at demonstrations in Germany and other countries of Europe while the Munich Security Conference was in session.

This article was published in
Volume 53 Number 1 - February 2023

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