NATO renews Ukraine’s membership vote, promises arms and aid

Natalie Portman
By Natalie Portman 6 Min Read

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg says war-torn Ukraine will one day become a member of world’s largest security alliance

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — NATO on Tuesday doubled down on its pledge to one day include Ukraine, a pledge that some officials and analysts believe helped prompt Russia’s invasion this year. The world’s largest security alliance has also pledged to send more aid to Ukrainian forces engaged in battle with Russian troops.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with NATO foreign ministers in Romania to rally support for Ukraine as Russia bombs energy infrastructure in the freezing winter. Russia cannot stop expansion of alliance, NATO leaders said.

“The door to NATO is open,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said before chairing the meeting in the capital, Bucharest.

He stressed that North Macedonia and Montenegro recently joined NATO and said Russian President Vladimir Putin “will soon have Finland and Sweden as NATO members”. The Nordic neighbors applied to join in April, worried that Russia might target them later.

“Russia has no veto” on countries that join, Stoltenberg said. “We also support this, on Ukraine’s accession.”

When NATO leaders met in Bucharest in 2008, they said that one day Ukraine and Georgia would join the alliance.

Some officials and analysts believe that statement — pressed on NATO allies by former US President George W. Bush — was partly responsible for the war Russia launched against Ukraine in February. In justifying his invasion on Feb. 24, Putin cited threats to Russia’s security from Ukraine’s ambitions to join NATO.

Stoltenberg said NATO expansion would not be hindered.

“President Putin cannot deny sovereign nations to make their own sovereign decisions that are not a threat to Russia,” the former Norwegian prime minister said. “I think what he’s afraid of is democracy and freedom, and that’s the main challenge for him.”

Many of NATO’s 30 members believe the goal now must be solely to defeat Russia, and Stoltenberg stressed that any attempt to move forward with membership could divide them.

“We are in the midst of a war and therefore we shouldn’t do anything that could undermine the unity of allies to provide military, humanitarian and financial support to Ukraine, because we must prevent President Putin from winning,” he said.

Beyond Ukraine’s immediate needs, NATO wants to see how it can help the country in the long run, by upgrading its Soviet-era equipment to modern alliance standards and providing more military training.

Ukraine, for its part, has asked for more supplies of weapons with which to defend itself, and quickly.

“Faster, faster and faster,” said Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. “We appreciate what has been done, but the war continues.”

“In a nutshell,” he said, “Patriots and transformers is what Ukraine needs the most.” Stoltenberg confirmed that deliveries of such sophisticated missile systems are under consideration.

The United States is open to supplying patriots, said a senior US defense official who briefed Pentagon reporters on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity. While Ukraine has been asking for the system for months, the United States and its allies have been hesitant to provide it to avoid further provoking Russia.

Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, said on his Telegram channel on Tuesday: “If, as Stoltenberg hinted, NATO supplies the fanatical Kiev Patriot complexes along with NATO personnel, they will immediately become a legitimate target of our armed forces. . I hope the powerless of the Atlantic understand this.

At the Romania meeting, the ministers pledged to provide military support to Ukraine, others for financial and non-lethal aid.

Slovakia said it was supplying 30 armored vehicles and more artillery.

The US announced $53 million to buy electrical parts for Ukraine’s electrical grid. The network has been hit across the country since early October by targeted Russian attacks, in what US officials are calling a Russian campaign to arm themselves against the oncoming winter chill.

Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu went one step ahead of most others by calling on his NATO partners to pledge 1% of their GDP to Ukraine in military support, saying he would make “a strategic difference”.

Most NATO allies, however, are struggling to spend 2% of GDP in their defense budgets.

The foreign ministers of NATO candidate countries Finland and Sweden are joining the talks. NATO is eager to add the two Nordic nations to the defensive forces arrayed against Russia. Turkey and Hungary resist having their applications ratified. The other 28 member countries have already done so.

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Tara Copp in Washington and Andrew Katell in New York contributed to this report.

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