NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said that any battlefield gains made in Ukraine’s counteroffensive could provide leverage in future peace talks with Russia. He claimed that Kiev has already made “progress” on the ground.
Speaking at the White House following a meeting with US President Joe Biden on Tuesday, Stoltenberg said the Western alliance would pledge additional aid to Ukraine at an upcoming summit in Lithuania.
“The offensive is launched and Ukrainians are making progress, making advances,” Stoltenberg claimed. “It’s still the early days, but what we do know is that the more land the Ukrainians are able to liberate, the stronger hand they will have at the negotiating table.”
Kiev’s Western backers have repeatedly stressed that Ukraine should negotiate on its own terms and must not be pressured into striking a deal that would benefit Russia.
Moscow, meanwhile, has insisted that the much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive launched last week has failed to breach Russian defenses, and that troops have been beaten back with heavy losses. Several German-made Leopard 2 main battle tanks and US-made M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles have been destroyed or abandoned in the recent fighting.
Officials in Moscow have stressed that Ukraine’s demand for Russia to surrender its newly incorporated territories, as well as Crimea, is a non-starter for negotiations.