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28 Nov, 2023 13:44

NATO to keep Ukraine invitation in back pocket

Kiev has some work to do before it can enter the US-led military alliance, Jens Stoltenberg has said
NATO to keep Ukraine invitation in back pocket

NATO leaders have agreed to invite Ukraine to join the bloc, but the time is not right, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said. The US-led bloc's chief had earlier ruled out Ukrainian accession while the country is embroiled in a conflict with Russia.

In an interview with Hungarian news website Index on Tuesday, released on the eve of a foreign minister-level meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council, Stoltenberg was asked to clarify when Kiev could finally achieve its goal of membership. The official, however, would not provide any specific dates.

Stoltenberg claimed that Kiev “is closer to NATO than ever,” adding that the bloc’s leaders “decided to invite Ukraine to join when the conditions were met and the allies agreed.”

He noted that Kiev had been allowed to take a shortcut on its path to accession, as it is no longer required to follow the Membership Action Plan, NATO’s program of advice and support for potential candidates.

Asked whether the West is suffering from “Ukraine fatigue,” Stoltenberg appeared to dodge the question, reiterating that NATO would support Kiev for “as long as it takes.” He added that the organization’s members have provided the embattled country with more than €100 billion ($109 billion) in military aid since the start of the conflict.

Ukraine made NATO membership a strategic foreign policy goal in 2017. In the autumn of 2022, Kiev formally applied to join the bloc following referendums in four of its former regions which voted to join Russia.

Moscow has for decades viewed NATO’s creeping expansion towards its borders as a national security threat. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said that Ukraine’s potential accession to the alliance was one of the key triggers for the military operation against Kiev.

On Tuesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov noted that the US-led military bloc was created as “a tool of confrontation” aimed at deterring Russia. He added that there are no signs that NATO will reverse this policy anytime soon and stop “sacrificing” Ukrainians in its fight against Russia.

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