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28 Jun, 2023 15:36

NATO chief sets condition for Ukraine membership

Kiev must win its conflict with Russia before it could join the bloc, Jens Stoltenberg has said
NATO chief sets condition for Ukraine membership

Any serious talk about Ukraine joining NATO will be possible only after the end of the conflict, the bloc’s Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday.

When asked at a joint press conference with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas for his take on Ukraine’s NATO prospects, Stoltenberg reiterated that all members of the bloc agree that Kiev would eventually join, though he stopped short of providing any specific dates.

“The most urgent task now is to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign and independent nation in Europe. Because if [Russian President Vladimir] Putin wins this war, then there is no membership issue to be discussed at all,” he noted.

Stoltenberg went on to say that Ukraine’s victory is “a precondition for any meaningful discussion about further membership,” adding that in the meantime NATO is trying to help Ukraine to achieve full interoperability with NATO forces and is enhancing political ties with Kiev.

Kiev has prioritized pursuing NATO membership for several years, with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky applying last September for an expedited accession, after four former Ukrainian territories overwhelmingly voted to join Russia. However, the US-led bloc has so far been reluctant to embrace Kiev’s bid.

In this vein, earlier this month Stoltenberg ruled out Kiev receiving an invitation at the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius in mid-July. Last week Zelensky urged the bloc’s chief not to “knock the ground from under our feet,” suggesting that such a stance could demoralize Ukrainian troops fighting Russia.

Russian officials have repeatedly warned against further NATO expansion, with Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov saying that one of the goals of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine is to prevent the country from joining the bloc since it would “pose a serious threat” to Moscow’s security.