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Invite to Ukraine to be issued when ‘conditions are met’ — NATO chief

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. (U.S. State Department photo/Released)

NATO will extend an invite to Ukraine to join the alliance when ‘members agree and conditions are met’, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Tuesday.

The NATO chief did not provide a specific timeline for this invitation, a point that drew criticism from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

In a tweet, Zelenskiy expressed his concern, stating it would be ‘absurd’ if NATO leaders did not offer his country a concrete timeframe for membership.

Stoltenberg said that NATO has reaffirmed Ukraine’s future membership in the alliance.

During a press conference at the NATO Summit in Lithuania’s Vilnius, he stated the pathway to membership would transition from a two-step to a one-step process, once Ukraine fulfills all prerequisite conditions.

“Allies have agreed on a package of three elements to bring Ukraine closer to NATO,” said Stoltenberg, outlining a new multi-year assistance program for Ukraine. This program is designed to facilitate the transition from Soviet-era to NATO standards and doctrines, to reconstruct Ukraine’s security and defense sector, and to cover critical needs such as fuel, demining equipment, and medical supplies,” he said.

Additionally, a new NATO-Ukraine Council will be established, serving as a forum for crisis consultations and decision-making. “We will meet as equals,” Stoltenberg added, expressing anticipation for the inaugural meeting of the Council with President Zelenskyy.

The third element of the package affirmed Ukraine’s future NATO membership and the elimination of the requirement for a Membership Action Plan, effectively streamlining Ukraine’s membership process. The invitation to join NATO will be issued “when Allies agree and conditions are met,” making this a comprehensive package and a clear path towards Ukraine’s NATO membership.

The Secretary General revealed that Allies have approved the most extensive defense plans since the end of the Cold War, aimed to counter the main threats NATO faces: Russia and terrorism.

These plans include a high-readiness force of 300,000 troops, backed by significant air and naval power.

He revealed defense expenditure by European Allies and Canada will increase by 8.3% in 2023, marking the biggest increase in decades. “Since 2014, they will have invested an extra 450 billion US dollars in defense,” Stoltenberg noted, adding that eleven Allies now reach or exceed the 2% benchmark and expecting this number to increase significantly the next year.

The Secretary General characterised the package as substantial, with numerous elements designed to move Ukraine closer to NATO and towards membership.

He highlighted the practical support, such as interoperability and defense sector reforms, as crucial conditions for membership. He emphasized that this package sends a strong political message and offers robust support from NATO Allies, which includes military aid and practical support to ensure full interoperability.

“Both when it comes to political message on the path forward for membership, and the concrete support from NATO Allies, there has never been a stronger message from NATO at any time,” Stoltenberg added.


(c) 2023 the Jordan Times

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