NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, on Tuesday, confirmed that NATO and its members want Ukraine to eventually join the military alliance at some point in the future. “NATO allies have agreed that Ukraine will become a member of our alliance, but at the same time that that is a long-term perspective,” Stoltenberg said.
“What is the issue now is to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign, independent nation, and therefore we need to support Ukraine,” he added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been pushing NATO for a “fast-tracked” process, despite his country being engaged in war with Russia and having an ongoing conflict in the country’s eastern region dating back to 2014 when Moscow annexed the Crimea peninsula and made it part of Russia.
NATO has never admitted a country that is engaged in an active conflict or has had an active conflict on its border, as doing so would automatically trigger Article 5 once the country was accepted into the alliance.
Ukraine is not the only country having difficulty joining NATO, with Sweden and Finland facing recent struggles as they attempt to join the alliance with a joint bid. All NATO members must unanimously agree to allow a country to join, but Turkey and Hungary have refused to admit Sweden. Stoltenberg said of the two holdout members, “My message has been for a long time… that time has come to finalize the ratification process. The time is now to ratify in both Budapest and in Ankara.”
In an effort to support Kyiv, Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin added, “I see that the future of Ukraine is to be part of the European Union and also a member of NATO.”
However, CIA Director William Burns cautioned in a 2008 cable that Ukraine being permitted to enter NATO would be the “brightest of all red lines.”
“Ukrainian entry into NATO is the brightest of all redlines for the Russian elite (not just Putin),” Burns wrote in the cable. “I have yet to find anyone who views Ukraine in NATO as anything other than a direct challenge to Russian interests,” he concluded.
Not only is Ukraine’s entry into NATO going to be a slow process and a long way off, but the process for Kyiv to join the EU is expected to take years or even decades, according to some predictions.
Some Ukrainian officials are saying that their nation is already a de facto member of NATO, given how the level of arms and training NATO allies have offered the country already. Putin views assistance from NATO the same way and has made demilitarizing Ukraine one of Russia’s invasion objectives as a result of it.