Nato commits to future Ukraine membership and drums up more aid

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Nato’s ‘door is open’ and ‘Russia does not have a veto’ on countries joining the security alliance.

Jens Stoltenberg
Jens Stoltenberg

Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reaffirmed the military alliance’s commitment to Ukraine on Tuesday, saying the war-torn nation will one day become a member of the world’s largest security organisation.

His remarks came as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and his Nato counterparts gathered in Romania to drum up urgently needed support for Ukraine aimed at ensuring that Moscow fails to defeat the country as it bombards its energy infrastructure.

“Nato’s door is open,” Mr Stoltenberg said.

“Russia does not have a veto” on countries joining, he said in reference to the recent entry of North Macedonia and Montenegro into the security alliance.

He added that Russian President Vladimir Putin “will get Finland and Sweden as Nato members” soon – the Nordic neighbours applied for membership in April, concerned that Russia might target them next.

“We stand by that, too, on membership for Ukraine,” the Norwegian former prime minister said.

“At the same time, the main focus now is on supporting Ukraine, ensuring that President Putin doesn’t win, but that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign nation in Europe.”

In essence, Mr Stoltenberg repeated a vow made by Nato in Bucharest in 2008 – in the same sprawling Palace of the Parliament where the foreign ministers are meeting this week – that Ukraine, and also Georgia, will join the alliance one day.

Some officials and analysts believe this move – pressed on the Nato allies by former US president George W Bush – was partly responsible for the war that Russia launched on Ukraine in February.

Mr Stoltenberg disagreed.

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

Nevertheless, Ukraine will not join Nato anytime soon.

With the Crimean Peninsula annexed, and Russian troops and pro-Moscow separatists holding parts of the south and east, it is not clear what Ukraine’s borders would even look like. Many of Nato’s 30 allies believe the focus now must be on defeating Russia.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will announce US aid for Ukraine’s energy grid at the Nato meeting in Bucharest, officials said (Daniel Mihailescu/Pool/AP)

During the two-day meeting, Mr Blinken will announce substantial US aid for Ukraine’s energy grid, officials said.

Ukraine’s network has been battered countrywide since early October by targeted Russian strikes, in what US officials call a Russian campaign to weaponise the coming winter cold.

“We are all paying a price for Russia’s war against Ukraine. But the price we pay is in money, while the price Ukrainians pay is a price paid in blood,” Mr Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

The meeting in Romania – which shares Nato’s longest land border with Ukraine – is likely to see Nato make fresh pledges of nonlethal support to Ukraine: fuel, generators, medical supplies, winter equipment and drone-jamming devices.

Romanian presidential counsellor Iulian Fota welcomes US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at Bucharest Henri Coanda International Airport (Daniel Mihailescu/Pool/AP)

Individual allies are also likely to announce fresh supplies of military equipment for Ukraine – chiefly the air defence systems that Kyiv so desperately seeks to protect its skies – but Nato, as an organiaation, will not, to avoid being dragged into a wider war with nuclear-armed Russia.

The ministers will hold a working dinner with their Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba, on Tuesday evening.

On Wednesday, they will also address ways to step up support for partners who officials have said are facing Russian pressure — Bosnia, Georgia, and Moldova.

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