NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania on July 11, 2023.
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Russia’s war in Ukraine has helped broaden, rather than slow the expansion of the NATO military alliance, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday, a day after Turkey endorsed Sweden’s membership bid.
Before his all-out invasion of Ukraine last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin cited alleged national security risks resulting from kyiv’s ambitions to join NATO.
“[Putin] he went to war because he wanted less NATO. It is getting more NATO,” Stoltenberg told reporters Tuesday at the start of the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. “Moscow, President Putin, has no veto on NATO enlargement.”
Stoltenberg’s comments come after Turkey on Monday agreed to back Sweden’s membership offer in the NATO alliance, after withholding its endorsement for more than a year. Ankara’s diplomatically complex objections focused mainly on Sweden’s support for Kurdish groups that Turkey designates as terrorists.
Stockholm and Helsinki abandoned their historic neutrality in the conflict and submitted their requests to join NATO in May 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Finland became the 31street alliance member in april this year and has participated in its first drilling exercises with the coalition ever since.
Ukraine has been pushing to advance its own NATO membership, but alliance officials have repeatedly said it is unlikely to join while the war is still raging on their territories. kyiv’s bid to join the European Union has also stalled, as Ukraine pushes ahead with judicial and anti-corruption reforms.
Still, Stoltenberg noted Tuesday that kyiv has made significant progress in deepening its relations with NATO since the April 2008 summit in Bucharest, where it was agreed that Ukraine and Georgia would join the alliance.
“Ukraine has come a long way since we made the decision in 2008 that the next step will be a membership action plan,” he said. “Ukraine is much closer to NATO, so I think the time has come to reflect that in NATO decisions as well.”
Stoltenberg also emphasized that “NATO allies will send a strong and positive message about the way forward for Ukraine” in his statement later that day.
Questions remain about the security guarantees that NATO can offer Ukraine and to what extent these commitments can survive a possible change of leadership in the US, which is due to hold elections in November 2024.
However, the lengthy accession process is winding down for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“Unprecedented and absurd, when there is no time frame for both the invitation (!) and Ukraine’s membership; and when strange wording is added instead about ‘conditions’ even for inviting Ukraine,” he said. . wrote Tuesday on Telegramaccording to a Google translation.
“It seems that there is no provision either to invite Ukraine to NATO or to make it a member of the Alliance,” he added. “And for Russia, this means motivation to continue its terror.”
Stoltenberg has confirmed that Zelenskyy will attend the NATO summit.
in google-translated comments published by the Russian state news agency Tass On Telegram, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned on Tuesday that Ukraine’s possible NATO membership is “very dangerous for European security,” adding that Sweden’s entry into the alliance will have “negative consequences.”
Russia will closely follow the NATO summit to take measures to ensure its own security, Peskov said.
Russia strongly opposes NATO expansion and regularly cites concerns about the spread of Western influence near its borders.
kyiv officially wrested its independence from the Soviet Union in August 1991, but Putin maintains that the Russians and Ukrainians are “a person” — a claim that is rejected by many in Ukraine. Moscow seized the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine in 2014 and last September illegally annexed four other Ukrainian oblasts: Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia.
The Russian invasion has prompted NATO to strengthen, rather than withdraw, its presence in Eastern Europe.
“NATO has increased its military presence in the eastern part of the Alliance as a direct result of Russia’s behavior, which reflects a pattern of aggressive actions against its neighbors and the wider transatlantic community.” the alliance said last month.