German defence minister says Ukraine must win war to curb Russian aggression

FILE PHOTO: Annual Munich Security Conference

MUNICH (Reuters) - Ukraine must win its battle against Russia's invasion, German Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said on Saturday, warning that a Russian victory might embolden Moscow to attack other countries.

Pistorius told the Munich Security Conference he had assured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that Germany and its allies would help Kyiv "for as long as it takes".

"I made clear: Ukraine must win this war," Pistorius said in a speech. "Russia is waging a brutal war of aggression and conquest against Ukraine, and if Putin had his way, this would only be the beginning."

Pistorius took office a month ago, succeeding a predecessor who critics accused of dragging her feet on placing urgently needed orders to backfill weapons rushed to Kyiv.

Pistorius, an outspoken member of Chancellor Olaf Scholz's Social Democrats, spent his first weeks in the job ordering ammunition, talking with the defence industry about ways to ramp up production and visiting Zelenskiy in Kyiv.

Earlier this week, he said he was in favour of raising NATO's military spending target - breaking with long-standing German reluctance to increase it beyond 2% of countries' gross domestic product (GDP).

Meeting his NATO counterparts in Brussels earlier this week, he said he was in favour of viewing the 2% as a floor rather than a ceiling, a step that could be agreed at the alliance's summit in Lithuania in July.

Several allies are pushing for higher military spending due to the Ukraine war, but NATO expects Berlin to only reach a military spending of less than 1.5% of its GDP in 2022.

In his Munich speech, Pistorius doubled down on Germany's pledge to reach the 2%.

"I will be working hard to make sure we finally achieve this overdue target. This is very important to me," he promised, while confirming Berlin's pledge to meet NATO's capability goals.

"By 2025, we will put at NATO's disposal a full army division," he said, referring to a unit of some 10,000 to 30,000 troops.

(Reporting by Sabine Siebold; Editing by Helen Popper)