NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in a fresh interview warned the Western alliance to brace for more "bad news" from Ukraine, according to Saturday remarks given to Germany's national ARD television.
He was asked whether he thinks the situation will worsen for Ukrainian forces in the future, after the counteroffensive has been widely acknowledged as a failure. "We should also be prepared for bad news," he responded. "Wars develop in phases. But we have to support Ukraine in both good and bad times."
He said that in response to the current "critical situation" the West must boost ammunition production. "I will leave it to the Ukrainians and military commanders to make these difficult operational decisions," Stoltenberg explained.
"One of the issues we should address is the fragmentation of the European defense industry," he said. Countries have gone from being enthusiastic supporters and donors of Ukraine's cause to more lately sounding the alarm over dwindling or tapped defense stockpiles, as ammo production also can't keep up.
A week ago, a German official raised eyebrows by speculating that if Germany was forced to enter a major war its troops would only last "two days in battle" due to severe shortages of defense supplied and ammunition as a result of giving them to Ukraine. Below are the German politician's words, according to a translation:
The combat capacity of the German Armed Forces, the Bundeswehr, has been seriously weakened by the shortage caused by the continuous supplies of material and ammunition to Kiev, said Johann Wadephul, German deputy of the opposition Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party. His comments come as it was discovered nearly half of Germans want to see the coalition government dissolved.
“Crucial [German] troop units can only last a maximum of two days in a battle [due to these shortages]. And that is a catastrophic finding overall,” Wadephul said. “Anyone who even talks about being ready for war, but expects the Bundeswehr to be at least ready to defend itself, should have ensured that such a bad situation does not occur. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case.”
Wadephul argued that the process of improving the combat capacity of the country’s armed forces was slow and blamed the German defence minister, Boris Pistorius, for the current state of things. He added that he sees high-sounding statements but little real action to change the current situation.
According to the politician, “the turning point” for the Bundeswehr has not yet arrived.
“Even when it comes to replacement procurement, the Bundeswehr is actually making a loss. As correct as the donations to Ukraine are in terms of material and ammunition, in the current security situation, it is unacceptable that there is no compensation,” Wadephul said. “We need much more [weapons] than we have had.”
All of this is also part of the 'war fatigue' echoed in media headlines. Still, Stoltenberg and the Biden White House are pressing European leaders to double and triple down. Stoltenberg also recently tried to swat down assertions that fatigue has finally set in even among NATO leadership.
And in his latest interview, the NATO chief emphasized that "Wars are inherently unpredictable" - but that "we know that the more we support Ukraine, the faster the war will end." Yet this strategy hasn't worked out so far.