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16 Feb, 2024 10:46

US dampens Ukraine’s NATO hopes

Membership for Kiev can only come after the conflict with Moscow ends, a State Department official has said
US dampens Ukraine’s NATO hopes

Ukraine should not expect to become a NATO member at the bloc’s key summit later this year, a senior US State Department official has said.

In an interview with the Ukrainian daily Suspilne on Friday, spokesman Daniel Cisek argued that the US-led military bloc, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this April, is “getting stronger.”

He pointed in particular to Finland’s recent accession to the alliance, as well as Sweden’s progress in doing the same. The two Nordic countries broke with their decades-long policies of neutrality in 2022 after the start of the Ukraine conflict.

Cisek also recalled that the leaders of NATO countries confirmed last year that Ukraine’s future lies in the bloc. However, the official noted that while the alliance understands Kiev’s desire to become a full-fledged member “as soon as possible,” the issue of accession will not be on the agenda in July 2024 when NATO leaders convene for a meeting in Washington.

”To be honest, this is not expected at the NATO summit this year... probably [it will be] after the war,” he said.

NATO first declared that Ukraine would join in 2008. After a Western-backed coup in Kiev in 2014, Ukraine ramped up engagement with the alliance, enshrining membership in its constitution as a strategic goal. In autumn 2022, it officially applied to join NATO after four of its former regions overwhelmingly voted to become part of Russia.

Moscow has repeatedly protested against what it calls NATO’s creeping expansion towards its borders since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with President Vladimir Putin citing Ukraine’s push to join as one of the key reasons for Russia’s military operation.

Despite repeated pleas from Kiev to accept it into the bloc, NATO officials have refrained from setting an exact deadline. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last year the issue was not on the table until the conflict is over.

In addition, Foreign Policy reported last month that the US and Germany were resisting calls from other allies to admit Ukraine, fearing that it could trigger a major escalation with Russia. The two nations reportedly believe the West should focus on providing arms, a policy that Moscow has consistently denounced.

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