Jens Stoltenberg: Sooner of Later Ukraine WILL become a NATO member
Ukraine will become a NATO member in the ‘long term’, the head of the western military alliance said today, amid Vladimir Putin’s on-going invasion of the country.
But Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg stressed that the immediate issue at hand is Ukraine remaining an independent nation from Russia.
‘NATO allies have agreed that Ukraine will become a member of our alliance, but at the same time that is a long-term perspective,’ Stoltenberg told reporters during a visit to Finland’s capital Helsinki.
Stoltenberg added that ‘the issue now is that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation, and therefore we need to support Ukraine.’
After Russia’s invasion, Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has urged the US-led military alliance to grant his country a fast-track membership.
Ukraine applied for EU membership in February 2022, shortly after it was invaded, and was granted candidate status in June.
When the war ends ‘we need to ensure that history doesn’t repeat itself,’ Stoltenberg told a press conference with Finnish prime minister Sanna Marin.
‘President Putin cannot continue to attack neighbours. He wants to control Ukraine and he is not planning for peace, he is planning for more war.’
‘I see that the future of Ukraine is to be part of the European Union and also a member of NATO,’ Marin added.
Putin has cited the eastern expansion of NATO’s borders as one reason behind his assault on the country. This has been dismissed by Kyiv and its allies, who say Moscow’s invasion is nothing more than an imperialistic land grab.
Stoltenberg’s comments as Finland prepared to debate its own bid to join the military alliance, which was sparked by Putin’s invasion.
Finland, which has one of Europe’s longest borders with Russia, kicks off a parliamentary debate aimed at accelerating the country’s bid, and increasing the likelihood it will leave neighbour and military partner Sweden behind.
Spooked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Finland and Sweden dropped their decades-long policies of military non-alignment and applied to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in May last year.
But facing fewer diplomatic hurdles than Stockholm, Helsinki appears set to move forward even before Finland’s April general elections, as public opinion also supports membership in the transatlantic military alliance.
The two countries have the support of all but two of NATO’s 30 members, the holdouts being Hungary and particularly Turkey.
Stoltenberg said that ‘both Finland and Sweden have delivered on what they promised in the trilateral agreement they made with Turkey last June in Madrid.
‘The time is now to ratify and to fully welcome Finland and Sweden as members.
A vote in Finland is expected by Wednesday, and having the bill passed means that Finland can act swiftly even if the ratifications come in before a new government.
The legislation is expected to pass without much opposition, as the initial membership bid in May was supported by 188 of the 200 members in parliament.
Helsinki has so far stressed its preference to join the alliance together with Sweden, but some have interpreted the bill as signalling that Finland is ready to move forward alone.
Turkey has meanwhile blocked the bids, accusing Sweden in particular of providing a safe haven for what it considers ‘terrorists’, especially members of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
In contrast, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday that Turkey looked favourably on Finland’s bid.
Ukraine applied to integrate with the alliance with a NATO Membership Action Plan in 2008, but plans to join were shelved following the 2010 election of Viktor Yanukovych, who chose to keep the country non-aligned.
Yanukovych fled Ukraine in 2014 amidst the Euromaiden protests, but despite calls from protesters to be more aligned with the west, the replacement government maintained that it had no plans to join NATO.
This changed when Russian invaded eastern Ukraine in 2014, with the new government then making joining NATO a priority, and in 2019 the constitution of the country was amended to make the pursuit of EU and NATO membership law – enshrining the country’s right to determine its own future.
On September 2022, months after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine (launched by Putin on February 24, 2022) and following the Russian annexation of four eastern and southern regions of Ukraine, the country formally applied to join NATO.