NATO Chief Faces Calls to Resign After Calling for Ukraine to Use Western Missiles on Russia Mainland

SALERNO, ITALY - MAY 27: Matteo Salvini, Minister of Infrastructure and Sustainable Mobili
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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is facing calls for his resignation after arguing that Ukraine should be given dispensation to use supposedly defensive Western-supplied missiles to attack targets in the Russian mainland.

With Moscow continuing to make territorial advances as the war in Ukraine grinds on, Stoltenberg argued over the weekend that one reason for the disparity in battlefield success is that Kyiv is prohibited from using NATO-supplied missiles and other weapons to attack targets within Russia.

“To deny Ukraine the possibility of using these weapons against legitimate military targets on Russian territory makes it very hard for them to defend themselves,” the NATO chief said.

While European powers have backed Ukraine in defending itself within its own UN-recognised borders — and therefore use Western money and weapons to fight Russian soldiers within Ukraine — there has been little appetite to appear to be directly attacking Russia.

The escalatory suggestion from Stoltenberg sparked outrage from Rome, with Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini saying that the NATO chief should either “retract, apologize, or resign,” public broadcaster RIA reports.  Salvini said that Italian military aid to Ukraine was supplied strictly for defensive purposes, not for “fighting, striking and killing outside its territory”.

“NATO cannot force us to kill in Russia, nor can anyone force us to send Italian soldiers to fight or die in Ukraine,” he said.

Although broadly supportive of the war effort in Ukraine, Italy, has of late become a leading voice for moderation within Europe, for example expressly rejecting suggestions from French President Emmanuel Macron that NATO troops may need to be sent into the battlefield to prevent an outright victory for Moscow.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who ran as a populist but who has governed from a centre-right neo-liberal position — despite persistent media attempts to cast her as “far-right” or fascist-adjacent — was more circumspect in her criticisms of the NATO chief’s comments.

“I don’t know why Stoltenberg says such a thing. You have to be very careful,” she said, but added: “I agree that NATO must maintain its firmness, it must not show signs of slowing down.”

Meloni continued to say that there have been “many questionable statements,” highlighting those made by President Macron, concluding: “I recommend more caution.”

Speaking to the New York Times last week, Ukrainian President Zelensky supported the notion from Stoltenberg, arguing that concerns about the conflict boiling over into a nuclear war were overblown. Zelensky said that Putin would not turn to nuclear weapons given his desire for self-preservation, saying: “He may be irrational, but he loves his own life.”

Zelensky also argued that American and European powers should begin shooting down Russian missiles over Ukrainian airspace in a similar manner to the operation done to protect Israel from an attempted Iranian drone attack last month.

Why can’t we shoot them down? Is it defense? Yes. Is it an attack on Russia? No. Are you shooting down Russian planes and killing Russian pilots? No. So what’s the issue with involving NATO countries in the war? There is no such issue,” he said.

“Shoot down what’s in the sky over Ukraine… And give us the weapons to use against Russian forces on the borders.”

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