NATO and its partners must show fresh resolve in their support for Ukraine, ensure that the war-ravaged country has access to the weapons and ammunition it needs, and continue to insist that its future lies among the Alliance’s ranks, parliamentarians said Saturday.
At the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Annual Session in Copenhagen, lawmakers underlined the importance of relentless Western backing for Ukraine as its counter-offensive against Russian forces grinds on, and of holding President Vladimir Putin to account for launching his illegal war.
“We must throw our political and diplomatic weight behind Ukraine’s cause globally,” US Congressman Rick Larsen told the Assembly’s Defence and Security Committee during discussion of a draft report on Ukraine’s fight for freedom and the international response to Russia’s war.
“This means holding Russia accountable for its crimes under international law, upholding Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and supporting Ukraine’s right to choose its own alliances and security arrangements,” Larsen said.
Concern was expressed in the Political Committee that any perceived erosion of support would only play into the hands of Putin as he seeks to drag out the war, divide the West and destroy not just Ukraine’s infrastructure but also its economy so it remains dependent on the West.
“We cannot allow the use of force and coercion to triumph over mutual rules and norms. That is why the Ukrainian fight is our fight. Their security is our security. Their freedom is our freedom,” said Lisbet Zilmer-Johns, State Secretary for Foreign Policy at Denmark’s Foreign Affairs Ministry.
NATO Allies and their partners were warned that relenting, or trying to force any peace deal on Ukraine, would only prove counterproductive and serve as an incentive for Putin or other authoritarians to invade their neighbours.
NATO Allies and partner countries must also be prepared for a long conflict.
“This war will last,” said Gustav Gressel, Senior Policy Fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. He warned that there will probably be “no truce, no ceasefire and no serious negotiations” about peace until 2025.
On the battlefield, Ukraine’s armed forces lack modern anti-tank weapons and are in desperate need of portable missile launchers, as well as internet and satellite communications, said Maksym Suprun, former Commander of the country’s 66th Mechanised Brigade.
He pointed out that Russia also has superior electronic warfare and drone surveillance capabilities.
“We are not asking you to fight for us. We are asking you to help us,” Suprun implored the legislators. He also insisted that peace negotiations with Moscow are not an option, saying: “You can never speak with a hungry alligator.”
One of the best ways of ensuring Ukraine’s security in the long term is for it to join NATO, lawmakers were told.
“I am convinced that any other scenario than full NATO membership of Ukraine would be nothing but a temporary truce before Russia is strong enough again to renew its aggression,” Lithuanian lawmaker Audronius Azubalis said.
He described accession as “the most feasible and efficient way to prevent a repetition of a long and exhausting war on the European continent,” during debate on a draft report about the future of the Alliance’s Open Door policy.
In the Committee on Democracy and Security, talks focused on ensuring that Putin and his associates will face court for their war of aggression on Ukraine and war crimes committed since the invasion began over a year and a half ago.
A draft report, drawn up by Belgian legislator Rodrigue Demeuse, urged NATO Allies and partners to continue to push to establish an international tribunal for the crime of aggression, which would also target Belarus officials who abet Russian forces.
The text invited Allies to devote more financial aid to international institutions that might investigate such crimes, including the International Criminal Court. Technical help should also be provided to collect evidence of serious violations, and support given to the victims.
The report warned that Allies must “ensure that justice is not the casualty of peace. When the guns finally fall silent, they must make sure that the fight against impunity for the crimes committed remains a major concern for the international community.”
World food security, and notably Russia’s deliberate and systematic attacks on critical Ukrainian ports, agricultural infrastructure, and grain supplies, was also high on the agenda during discussion on a draft report on building resilience to such global crises.
Canadian parliamentarian Julie Dzerowicz, who prepared the text, warned that it is critical to tighten “compliance with sanctions to ensure that Russia does not instrumentalize its own food exports as a tool to gather diplomatic support for its illegal war.”
She urged Allies to mobilise resources to address Ukraine’s short- and long-term food needs.