Ukraine needs weapons, not "white flags" – NATO Secretary General responds to Pope's statement

Monday, 11 March 2024

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg disagrees with Pope Francis' remarks that Ukraine should have the "courage of the white flag" and negotiate an end to the war caused by Russia's full-scale invasion.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in an interview with Reuters, that "if we want a negotiated peaceful lasting solution (to the war in Ukraine – ed.), the way to get there is to provide military support to Ukraine".

He added that "what happens around a negotiating table is inextricably linked to the strength on the battlefield".

When asked whether his words meant that now was not the time to discuss "white flags" for Ukraine, the NATO Secretary General replied: "It's not the time to talk about surrender by the Ukrainians. That will be a tragedy for the Ukrainians. It will also be dangerous for all of us."


On 9 March, Reuters reported that Pope Francis said in an interview this February that Ukraine should have what he called "the courage of the white flag" and negotiate an end to the war with Russia.

The Vatican later clarified the Pope’s remarks, stressing that he was calling for a ceasefire and the resumption of negotiations, not for Ukraine to surrender, and emphasising the Pope’s words that "Negotiation is never a surrender".

Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski said in response to Pope Francis’s statement that the Pope should ask Russian President Vladimir Putin to withdraw his occupation forces from Ukraine. The European Commission's spokesperson for foreign affairs noted that peace is "in the hands of one person", Russian President Vladimir Putin, because he started the war and is the one who continues to wage it.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba responded to Pope Francis’s suggestion by saying that Ukraine’s flag is yellow and blue, not white.

Read more: Scholz disagrees with Pope's controversial remarks, says Ukraine fights back against aggressor

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