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29 Apr, 2024 15:28

NATO boss warns Ukraine not to expect membership deal this year 

Unanimity is required to admit a new member, Jens Stoltenberg reminded Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky 
NATO boss warns Ukraine not to expect membership deal this year 

Ukraine is highly unlikely to join NATO at the bloc’s key summit later this year because all members of the US-led military bloc would have to support its bid, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said.  

Speaking during an unannounced visit to Kiev on Sunday, where he met with Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, Stoltenberg emphasized that “Ukraine’s rightful place is in NATO,” and that it would eventually join the bloc.  

“The work we are undertaking now puts you on an irreversible path towards NATO membership,” Stoltenberg assured Zelensky, without elaborating on the exact timeline.  

The NATO chief also signaled that Kiev should not expect to join the bloc at the Washington summit scheduled for July. “To have that decision, we need all allies to agree. We need a consensus, we need not a majority, but actually 32 allies to agree,” he explained, expressing hope that the event would help demonstrate that NATO is moving Ukraine closer to membership.  

Stoltenberg also once again stressed the urgency of NATO arms shipments to Ukraine, even at the expense of the bloc’s combat readiness and lamented that delays in Western assistance had allowed Russia to make gains on the battlefield. “I have been clear that if allies face a choice between meeting NATO capability targets or support to Ukraine, they should support Ukraine.”  

Ukraine officially set its sights on full NATO membership several years ago before the start of the conflict with Russia, which has for years sounded the alarm about the bloc’s expansion towards its borders.  

In September 2022, Ukraine formally applied to become part of NATO, after four former regions voted overwhelmingly to join Russia. However, no timeline has been set for the membership. Stoltenberg said last year that this would only happen “when conditions are met.”  

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the US and Germany – Ukraine’s key supporters in terms of military aid – are reluctant to accept Kiev into NATO, arguing that it “would draw it into the biggest land war in Europe since 1945.” Slovakia and Hungary have also publicly opposed Ukraine’s NATO membership, citing risks of a major escalation.  

Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has warned that Ukraine’s potential accession would have disastrous consequences for European security and pose an “absolute threat” to Moscow.

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