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Morale among soldiers in Ukraine has taken center stage as the war persists for a third month with NATO military leaders on Thursday claiming this factor gives Ukraine an edge Russia is missing.
“There are many lessons to be learned from the war in Ukraine. Most importantly, it has once again proven the importance of morale, to know what you are fighting for,” chair of NATO’s Military Committee Adm. Robert Bauer told reporters.
Bauer said NATO’s chief concern at the moment is ensuring that Ukraine is able to defend its sovereignty and independence against Russia.
Three months of fighting has resulted in the displacement of nearly 13 million Ukrainians who have fled their homes inside the war-torn country and to neighboring nations.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed during Russia’s invasion and Moscow has pledged not to stop until it has gained “full control” over eastern and southern Ukraine – though Ukrainian officials have warned the Kremlin will likely make another attempt to take Kyiv.
U.S. defense officials have reported that though Russia’s advances are slow, they are making “incremental gains” in the eastern Donbas regions and around the Black Sea.
NATO officials said Ukrainians will “never accept Russian occupation” and vowed to continue supporting Kyiv “for as long as necessary.”
But despite Russia’s continued aggression and relative gains, NATO’s military leaders said Ukrainian morale was a “huge” boost to its war effort.
“It is not only about capabilities, technology, weapons, but it is about the will of people to fight for their own nation,” Bauer said, noting that Ukrainians of all ages have been taking up arms against invading Russian forces.
“What it also shows is the tremendous morale that the Ukrainian forces have and the importance of morale,” he continued. “The Russian soldiers, many of them probably don’t even understand why they are there. And that is a huge difference when it comes to the success of the military.”
Leaders from NATO’s Military Committee not only renewed their support for Ukraine but announced a new military strategy for the alliance.
The military officials were light on details but said the new strategy would be all-encompassing in every operational domain, including land, sea, air, space and cyber.
The military committee chiefs championed the prospect of adding Finland and Sweden to the alliance and said the move would help NATO shore up its defenses by identifying additional “seams” and “vulnerabilities” that Russia could target.
NATO’s military chair said Russia’s aggression is not only a threat to Ukraine but to the European continent and the one billion citizens united under NATO.
“President Putin’s war in Ukraine has presented us with a new strategic reality,” Bauer said. “We always have to be ready to expect the unexpected.”