1 of 2 | NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Thursday that NATO has not changed its nuclear posture over the arrival of Russian tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. Photo courtesy NATO
June 15 (UPI) -- NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Thursday that Russia's deployment of nuclear weapons to Belarus has so far not changed NATO's nuclear posture.
But Stoltenberg said Russia's nuclear rhetoric is "reckless and dangerous" and NATO is closely monitoring how for changes in Moscow's nuclear posture.
"Russia must know that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought," Stoltenberg said in reply to a reporter's question. "And we are, of course, closely monitoring what Russia is doing. So far, we haven't seen any changes in the nuclear posture that requires any changes in our posture."
The United States, a NATO member, said it had also not adjusted its nuclear posture, but the Biden administration has called the move "irresponsible and provocative."
Stoltenberg said Russia has invested heavily in new modern nuclear weapons and has deployed them close to NATO borders, including in Europe's high north. NATO has responded by increasing force readiness and beefing up its military presence in the alliance's east.
Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko said Wednesday that Russian tactical nuclear weapons have been delivered to Belarus and if attacked it would use them.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced the plans to store the short-range land-based tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, an ally that helped Moscow launch its invasion of Ukraine.
Stoltenberg's comments came ahead of NATO's meeting of its defense ministers Thursday and Friday. These meetings build toward the NATO Vilnius summit in July as Ukraine presses its counteroffensive to liberate more Russian-occupied Ukrainian territory.
"What we see is fierce fighting," Stoltenberg said of the counteroffensive. "It is still early days. But we also see that the Ukrainians are making gains and that Ukraine is able to liberate occupied land."
He said NATO will address how to further strengthen NATO's deterrence and defense. That includes making a 2% GDP contribution from member countries a requirement as a minimum that NATO members must reach.
Stoltenberg said a main issue NATO is also addressing is how to sustain and step up support for Ukraine using the alliance's Ukraine Commission, which will meet with Ukraine Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov.
NATO is making efforts to ramp up production and procurement of "battle decisive ammunition" like 155 mm artillery shells using a billion U.S. dollars and NATO's Support and Procurement Agency.
There are no signs, Stoltenberg said, of Russia actually preparing for peace or any real peace negotiations. If a just and enduring peace is to be attained, he said, NATO needs to continue providing military support to Ukraine until Putin realizes he can't win and must negotiate.
On F-16 and other modern fourth-generation Western fighter jets for Ukraine Stoltenberg commended Denmark for its leading role in facilitating training for Ukrainian pilots.
"I welcome the decision by several NATO Allies to provide a training of fighter pilots. This is important and it will enable us to, at a later stage, also make decisions to deliver fourth-generation fighter aircraft like for instance, the F-16s."
He said it's too early to say exactly when the fighter jets can be delivered.
With NATO eager to admit Sweden to the alliance, negotiations have been happening in Ankara to overcome objections from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Stoltenberg said they have been constructive talks and "it is possible to get Sweden in" by the NATO July summit.
"Sweden has delivered on the commitments Sweden made at Summit in Madrid last year, which is to remove restrictions on arms exports, to strengthen the cooperation with Türkiye in fighting terrorism, as Sweden has changed, amended its constitution and strengthened the anti-terrorist legislation," Stoltenberg said.
He acknowledged Turkey's legitimate security concerns about terrorism and said hard work is ongoing to overcome Turkey's objections and admit Sweden to NATO as soon as possible.