NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN that Russian President Vladimir Putin has underestimated both Ukraine’s resistance and the unity of the NATO military alliance.
“He [Putin] has made a big mistake; he totally underestimated the strength of Ukrainian armed forces, the courage of Ukrainian leadership and the Ukrainian people, and he also underestimated the unity of NATO and partners in providing support to Ukraine,” Stoltenberg told CNN’s chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour Thursday.
Speaking from the NATO Madrid summit, Stoltenberg said that Putin had failed in achieving his objectives when it came to weakening the NATO alliance.
“One of his main messages at the beginning of this war was that he wanted less NATO. He actually proposed to sign an agreement to have no further NATO enlargement. What he’s getting now is more NATO and two new NATO members, including Finland with a border … with Russia, doubling NATO’s border with Russia,” he told Amanpour.
“That does not mean we don’t see the seriousness of the difficulties that Ukraine is facing in Donbas,” Stoltenberg said.
Stoltenberg told CNN that he is ignoring Putin’s rhetoric and that he will “assess him on his actions.”
“What he does in Ukraine is a brutal violation of international law. It is a war that has led to a lot of civilian casualties, civilians killed and huge losses,” he told CNN.
The accomplishments at the NATO summit in Madrid are a “victory” for the military alliance, according to Stoltenberg.
“It is a victory for NATO that we once again have demonstrated our unity and ability to change, adapt when the world is changing,” the NATO chief said.
“We live in a world where we see brutal use of force against a close neighbor of NATO, a close partner of NATO in Ukraine, and that’s the reason why we have significantly stepped up and will further step up our presence in the eastern part of the alliance to remove any room for miscalculation or misunderstanding in Moscow about our readiness to protect and defend all allies,” he said.
“This is deterrence, and the purpose of deterrence is to prevent conflict. And that’s exactly what NATO has done for more than 70 years — prevent conflict and preserve peace,” he added.