Ukraine is now closer to NATO than ever before, Stoltenberg says in Vilnius

Ukraine is now closer to NATO than ever before and will have security assurances when the Russian invasion ends to deter any future aggression from Moscow, the alliance’s secretary-general has said.

Ukraines President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (right) shake hands as they hold a joint news conference at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky (left) and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg (right) shake hands as they hold a joint news conference at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Wednesday, July 12, 2023.PAP/EPA/TOMS KALNINS

Jens Stoltenberg made the declaration at a news conference in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Wednesday, Polish state news agency PAP reported.

The NATO chief spoke to the media alongside Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky after their talks on the sidelines of the Western alliance’s annual summit, which is taking place in Vilnius on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

On Tuesday, NATO leaders reaffirmed that „Ukraine will become a member” of the alliance and would not be required to complete “a Membership Action Plan,” the PAP news agency reported.

Stoltenberg said on Wednesday: “Allies reaffirmed that Ukraine will become a member of the alliance and agreed to remove the requirement for a Membership Action Plan.”

Addressing Zelensky, he declared: “NATO will continue to stand with you for as long as it takes … Today we meet as equals, I look forward to the day we meet as allies.”

Stoltenberg added: “When President Putin invaded Ukraine last year,
he underestimated the bravery of the Ukrainian people, the courage of the Ukrainian forces, and the determination of the Ukrainian political leadership. But he also underestimated the unity and strength of the NATO alliance.”

The NATO chief also said: “We must ensure that, when this war ends, there are credible arrangements in place for Ukraine’s security. So that history does not repeat itself.”

“I therefore welcome that many allies will today commit to providing long-term security assistance to Ukraine,” he added.  

Stoltenberg stressed that NATO’s new multi-year programme of assistance would help Ukraine “transition from Soviet-era to NATO equipment and standards” and make Ukraine’s forces “fully interoperable within NATO.”

He also emphasised that the alliance must continue to support Ukraine as a victory for Russia would be “a tragedy” and “a threat to Europe.”

Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Zelensky said his country “will always be a contributor to our common security,” and called the new packages of defence support „positive news,” British broadcaster BBC reported.

Ukraine’s president expressed gratitude to the leaders who helped with the packages and for the “important steps” to simplify Ukraine’s pathway to NATO membership, according to the BBC.

Zelensky also praised the results of the Vilnius summit, but said that Ukraine receiving a formal invitation to join NATO “would have been the ideal outcome,” the PAP news agency reported

Earlier on Wednesday, NATO leaders including Polish President Andrzej Duda held “a meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of heads of state and government, with Sweden, Indo-Pacific partners, and the European Union,” according to officials.

In the afternoon, NATO leaders gathered for the first meeting of the newly created NATO-Ukraine Council “at the level of heads of state and government,” with Ukraine’s Zelensky in attendance.

US President Joe Biden was set to cap the Vilnius summit with a speech celebrating the unity of the NATO alliance over Ukraine as a promise to restore a divided world, the Reuters news agency reported.

Biden planned to highlight new assistance for Ukraine and America’s role in ushering Sweden into the military alliance, the PAP news agency reported

The US leader was expected to say: “We’re at a high point of allied unity coming out of the summit and how we’ve rallied the world to support the people of Ukraine … It’s important to build on that unity to tackle other important challenges … such as climate change, emerging technologies and threats to the rules-based international order,” according to Reuters. 

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, launching the largest military campaign in Europe since World War II.


Source: PAP, NATO, Reuters, BBC

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