NATO tells Ukraine it must defeat Russia to join

The bloc chief’s comments come after the US ruled out membership for Kiev anytime soon

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian leader Vladimir Zelensky at the 2023 NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania on July 12, 2023. ©  Artur Widak / NurPhoto / Getty Images

must prevail in its conflict with Russia if it wants to join NATO, the military bloc’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Wednesday. The comments come as heads of NATO states prepare to meet for an annual summit in Washington on July 9-11.

“I expect that allies will actually make important announcements between now and the summit and also at the summit for more military equipment … which is urgently needed to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation,” Stoltenberg told reporters during a meeting of defense ministers in Brussels.

“And without that, of course, there is no membership issue to be discussed. We need to ensure that Ukraine prevails – that’s an absolute minimum for Ukraine to become a member of the alliance.”

Ukraine formally applied to join the US-led bloc in September 2022, citing the armed conflict with Russia. Despite Kiev’s requests for an expedited path to membership, the bloc has so far refused to provide a timetable or roadmap for accession. The allies have further ruled out admitting Ukraine until the conflict with Russia is resolved.

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Ukrainian officials, nevertheless, have continued their push for concrete steps towards accession. “We also expect specific decisions regarding Ukraine’s membership in NATO, in a package with other guarantees of continuity of military aid and increased interoperability,” Olga Stefanishina, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister responsible for Euro-Atlantic integration, told Politico this month.

The White House, however, has said Ukraine will not become a member of the bloc during the upcoming summit in Washington. “We do not anticipate that there’ll be an invitation for Ukraine to join NATO, but we think there will be a substantial show of support for Ukraine as it works to win its war,” US Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs James O’Brien said in May.

Since 2023, Ukraine has signed bilateral security pacts with several NATO members, including the UK, France, and Germany. These agreements do not have the same power as Article 5 of the NATO Charter, however, which stipulates that an attack against one member must be treated as an attack against the bloc as a whole.

Russia has cited Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO and the bloc’s continued expansion eastward as one of the root causes of the current conflict. Moscow views NATO as a threat to its security and has insisted that Ukraine must be a neutral country with limited armed forces. 


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