NATO chief in Prague: Ukraine has right to hit targets inside Russia

The war in Ukraine dominated an informal summit of NATO foreign ministers in Prague, which entered its second day Friday. Also in attendance was the alliance’s secretary general, who responded positively to news the US is allowing Ukraine to hit targets inside Russia with American weapons.

The informal summit of NATO foreign ministers in Prague was held in preparation for a full summit in Washington in July and was the biggest alliance event in Czechia in over two decades.

The venue for the two-day event was the grand Czernin Palace in the city’s Hradčany district, home of the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Jens Stoltenberg and Jan Lipavský | Photo: Michal Kamaryt,  ČTK

While the summit was for foreign ministers it was also attended by the secretary general of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg.

His message to journalists as he arrived on Friday morning was, like the entire gathering, focused on Ukraine.

“I have proposed that NATO should play a bigger role in the coordination and the supply of security assistance and training for Ukraine. I have also proposed a multi-year financial pledge to ensure more accountability and predictability in the support we provide to Ukraine, because we need to make sure that Moscow understands that we are prepared for the long haul in our support for Ukraine.”

An eternal issue for NATO has been funding, with many members not respecting its call for 2 percent spending on military capability. That has been changing since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“We have new defence plans. Allies are allocating more forces to NATO. This is also reflected in the fact that more and more allies are investing more in defence, meeting the 2 percent guideline. The Czech Republic, for instance, will be at 2 percent of GDP for defence this year.”

Jens Stoltenberg | Photo: NATO

While the NATO officials were in Prague there was movement on Ukraine, with the Biden administration saying it would allow the country to hit targets in Russia – albeit only near the embattled Kharkiv region – with US-supplied weapons.

Mr. Stoltenberg would not be drawn on details, but he did make the following statement.

“We need to remember what this is: This is a war of aggression. Russia has attacked another country, violated international law and invaded Ukraine, and Ukraine has the right to self-defence. That includes also the right to strike legitimate military targets inside Russia.”

The NATO chief also said Kremlin threats of retaliation had been heard repeatedly and should not be allowed to sway the alliance’s thinking.

“The day of the invasion he gave a speech where he threatened all countries that were going to provide any support to Ukraine – that that was dangerous and that would have consequences. And that has been the message every time we have made decisions: to deliver long-range artillery, HIMARS, advanced battle tanks, cruise missiles or F16 fighter jets. So this is part of the efforts by President Putin to prevent NATO allies from supporting Ukraine to defend themselves.”

Author: Ian Willoughby
run audio