NATO urged to speed up delivery of Ukraine arms, hold Putin and accomplices to account

21 May 2023

NATO Allies must speed up their delivery of weapons and ammunition so that Ukraine can defend itself from invading Russian forces and boost military spending to plug gaps in national stocks and bolster the defences of the Euro-Atlantic area, parliamentarians warned Sunday.

Legislators from NATO nations also underlined that Russia’s leaders and troops as well as their accomplices in Belarus must be held accountable for atrocities during the war. Support was voiced for an international tribunal to hear war crimes cases, during debate at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly’s Spring Session in Luxembourg. 

“Speed matters, it matters greatly, and if we deliver new capabilities at old timelines, some of it will arrive too late to matter to Ukraine,” Slovak lawmaker Tomas Vasalek told members of the Political Committee, as NATO prepares for a Summit in Vilnius on July 11-12 with the war topping the agenda.  

A draft report on rethinking the global order and lessons learned from the war, prepared by Valasek, underlined the importance of accelerating NATO’s adaptation to ensure it is fit to push back against the authoritarian onslaught exemplified by Russia and to salvage the global rules-based order.  

The text also highlighted the importance of spending at least 2% of GDP on military budgets, saying that this must be a new norm, particularly as the war highlights defence industry deficiencies. NATO leaders are due to revise the 31-nation Alliance’s spending goals when they meet in Vilnius. 

“The war has fully exposed the consequences of years of underspending,” Vasalek said, and he insisted that “2% of the GDP must become the new baseline if we are serious about funding our own decisions to defend the eastern and southern flanks.” 

In a speech, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of the democratic forces of Belarus, told the Committee that supporting civil society in her country would help to hasten Ukraine’s victory. She described how President Aleksander Lukashenko has become President Vladimir Putin’s “accomplice in all his murderous criminal endeavors.” 

“He provided Russia with airfields, military bases, training grounds, hospitals, and all the infrastructure. He gave Russia fuel, ammunition, military armor, and vehicles,” Tsikhanouskaya said, noting that after the international arrest warrant issued for Putin, “there should be the same warrant to arrest Lukashenko for crimes of aggression and crimes against humanity.” 

Accountability was a central theme in the NATO PA’s Sub-Committee on Resilience and Civil Security. Lawmakers argued that the Russian leaders who orchestrated the invasion must be held accountable along with those in Belarus like Lukashenko who aided and abetted Moscow. 

A draft report said that Russian troops have trampled on international humanitarian law, committing war crimes by attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine and possibly crimes against humanity and genocide. Fighting impunity must be a key priority. 

“All these efforts must be maintained and reinforced,” said Belgian legislator Rodrigue Demeuse, author of the text. “It’s notably necessary to allocate more ample means to the national and international judicial institutions charged with collecting proof of grave violations and to pursue those responsible.” 

“Allied countries must also continue to call, as our Assembly has done several times, for the creation of an international tribunal to prosecute Russian leaders guilty of the crime of aggression against Ukraine, as well as their Belarus accomplices,” he said. 

The draft report insisted that respect for international law, which serves as the foundation for democratic systems and the global liberal order, is at stake in what has become a battle for justice being fought in Ukraine. 

Seated alongside Demeuse, Oleksandra Matviichuk, Director of the Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties, which won the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize, said that her organisation and the "Tribunal for Putin" initiative have documented 39,000 episodes of war crimes over the last year. 

“Russia uses war crimes as a method of warfare. Russia attempts to break people’s resistance and occupy the country by means of inflicting immense pain on civilians,” she said in a compelling presentation. 

Matviichuk urged the parliamentarians to quickly “provide Ukraine with modern weapons because, for now, the law doesn’t work.” 

Focusing on the fate of children in Ukraine, Irene Fellin, the NATO Secretary General’s Special Representative for Women, Peace and Security, warned that “the numbers of children killed and maimed, tortured, driven from their homes, deported from their homeland, cut off from heath care and education are staggering -- and continue to rise.” 

She noted that at least one child has been killed every day since the invasion in February 2022. As of April 2, at least 511 children had been killed and over 1,000 wounded. Explosive weapons in populated areas are the main cause of casualties. 

Ukraine’s Education Ministry says that 3,198 educational facilities have been bombed or shelled. Government figures also indicated that well over 16,000 children have been deported to Russia.  

“Thankfully,” Fellin said, “we have not as yet received verified reports of the use of children in this war.” 

Read also