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26 Jun, 2022 10:46

Ukraine joining NATO ‘has never been on the table’ – Spain

The idea of inviting Kiev to enter the military bloc will not be discussed at next week’s summit, Madrid has said
Ukraine joining NATO ‘has never been on the table’ – Spain

NATO has invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to take part in its upcoming summit in Madrid, but that does not mean that the bloc plans to invite Kiev to join its ranks any time soon, Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares told the newspaper El Pais on Sunday.

The question of inviting Ukraine to enter NATO is not being raised, the minister said, when asked if the military bloc would keep its door open for Kiev to join “in the mid-term.” “It has never been on the table, nor is it now,” he added.

NATO’s eastward expansion was cited by Russia as one of the reasons for launching its offensive against Ukraine in February. The Kremlin demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join the US-led organization.

Earlier this week, Zelensky adviser Aleksey Arestovich stated that Ukraine is “de facto” already a part of NATO, pointing to promises by Western nations to help it “win” the conflict with Russia.

Had Zelensky decided to take part in the upcoming Madrid summit personally, “we would have welcomed him with open arms,” the Spanish defense minister said, adding that the Ukrainian leader would participate via video link.

The EU and NATO only want “peace to return to Ukraine and Europe as soon as possible,” Albares noted, adding, however, that all the measures taken by the EU nations and their “transatlantic allies” are aimed at making Moscow’s forces return to Russian territory.

Western nations have been supplying Ukraine with various arms and military equipment almost since the start of the offensive. Moscow has repeatedly warned that such supplies to Kiev would only prolong the conflict.

When asked if the West should encourage Zelensky to reach a ceasefire with Russia by making some concessions, Albares said that Ukraine was a sovereign nation and can make decisions for itself.

His words came ahead of next week's NATO summit in Madrid, at which the military bloc is expected to define its new strategy concept. NATO’s chief, Jens Stoltenberg, earlier said that in its next policy update the bloc would for the first time declare Russia not a partner but a threat.

The Baltic nations and Poland also plan to use the occasion to request a massive NATO buildup on its eastern flank – something Moscow has long defined as a threat to its security.