Skip to content

To Strike Ukraine with NATO Weapons, Or Not

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s demand, made in the interview with The Economist on May 24, that Washington lift its restrictions on Ukraine’s use of U.S.-supplied weapons against targets in Russia is causing an uproar, at least in Italy. Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani angrily slammed Stoltenberg’s statement yesterday. “We will not send a single Italian soldier to Ukraine, and the military equipment that Italy sends should be used on the territory of Ukraine,” Tajani was quoted as saying on May 25, reported Sputnik. He added that Italy “must always work for peace and lower the tone.” While Italy is a part of NATO, “every decision must be made collectively,” he pointed out.

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Lega party Matteo Salvini voiced the same position, stressing that no one seeks a “prelude to a Third World War.”

“Italy is not at war with anyone, and while it was right to assist Ukraine militarily, lifting the ban on Kiev to strike military targets in Russia is out of the question. Similarly, I reiterate that Lega opposes sending even a single soldier to fight in Ukraine. We seek peace, not a prelude to a Third World War,” he underscored.

In Berlin, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has again said that he objects to allowing Ukraine to use Western weapons against military targets in Russia. “We have clear rules for the use of the weapons we supply. We have agreed with Ukraine and they are in force,” the DPA German news agency quoted him as saying at a meeting with citizens at the Berlin “Democracy Festival,” celebrating 75 years of German postwar constitution yesterday.

The Swedes, on the other hand, are going the opposite way, reports Ukrinform, citing the Swedish news outlet Hallandsposten. Journalists sent a respective request to Swedish Defense Minister Pal Jonson and received the following answer: “Ukraine is exposed to an unprovoked and illegal war of aggression by Russia. According to international law, Ukraine has the right to defend itself through military actions aimed at the enemy’s territory as long as the military actions comply with the laws of war. Sweden stands behind international law and Ukraine’s right to defend itself.”

Stoltenberg, during a speech to NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly this morning, tried to explain his statement to The Economist. Stoltenberg maintained that “it’s for allies” to decide on what conditions they deliver weapons to Ukraine, not NATO itself. “But I have said that the time has come to consider whether it will be right to lift some of the restrictions which have been imposed. Because we see now that especially in the Kharkiv region, the front line and the borderline is more or less the same,” he said. “And of course, if they cannot attack military targets on Russian territory, then it ties one hand of the Ukrainians on their back and makes it very hard for them to conduct defense, because they are attacked from Russian territory, with missiles, with airstrikes, with artillery and it’s hard for them to respond because there are restrictions on some of the weapons they could use.”

Seeking a peaceful settlement of the conflict would save lives, but peace is not an option for the NATO war alliance.