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29 Jun, 2023 20:35

NATO chief makes promise to Ukraine

Kiev will receive a “message of support,” Jens Stoltenberg has said, but did not say whether security guarantees are on the table
NATO chief makes promise to Ukraine

NATO is not planning to discuss Ukraine’s accession process at its July summit in Vilnius, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said, stressing that the most urgent task for now is to support Kiev in its fight with Moscow.

Speaking to reporters prior to the European Council meeting in Brussels, Stoltenberg was asked whether Ukraine could hope to get security guarantees from NATO and the EU before joining the two blocs. 

However, he stopped short of delivering a straight answer, saying instead that “after the NATO summit we will address Ukraine’s membership aspirations.” 

“I’m absolutely confident that NATO allies will send a very strong message of support to Ukraine,” he added.

The top NATO official went on to reiterate that all members of the US-led bloc agree Ukraine will eventually become a member. He noted that the alliance believes “it’s not for Russia, but for NATO allies and Ukraine to decide when the time is right to extend a full invitation for Ukraine to join.”

However, he said that NATO’s most important task currently is to continue providing support to Ukraine in a bid to ensure that it prevails in its conflict with Russia. “Unless we are able to do that, there is no membership issue to be discussed at all,” Stoltenberg explained.

On Wednesday, the alliance chief said that any serious discussion about Kiev joining the bloc could only start on condition it emerges victorious in its fight with Moscow.

Ukraine made NATO membership a state priority several years ago, intensifying its demands for entry after the start of hostilities with Russia in February 2022. Last September, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky officially applied for expedited accession after four former Ukrainian territories overwhelmingly voted to join Russia.

Earlier this month, he also claimed that Kiev “is ready to be in NATO” while pressing the bloc to issue a “clear invitation” to Ukraine. However, the Ukrainian leader recognized that it was “impossible” to join the bloc while the conflict with Russia continues.

Meanwhile, Moscow has for years argued against NATO expansion, describing the issue as a critical security concern. Russian officials have also repeatedly stated that Ukraine’s push to join the alliance was one of the key reasons for its ongoing military campaign in the neighboring country.