Ukraine will be part of NATO, but now the priority is the fight against Russia, says Stoltenberg.
Ukrainian gunners fire an M777 howitzer towards Russian positions.

NATO members agree that Ukraine will eventually join the North Atlantic alliance, but the current priority is to ensure that it prevails as a “sovereign and independent nation” and can repel a Russian invasion, the secretary general said in Norway on Thursday. of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg.

Speaking to reporters before a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Oslo, Stoltenberg stressed that only members of the alliance – not the Kremlin – will decide whether Kyiv joins NATO.

“Moscow cannot veto NATO enlargement,” he said.

Ukraine is rapidly moving from Soviet military equipment and doctrine standards to NATO standards, a crucial step before it is ready to join NATO, Stoltenberg said.

“When the allies start, for example, to train them in the use of fourth-generation aircraft according to NATO standards, that will help them to be able to operate with modern aircraft,” he said. “But it also helps them get closer to NATO, to NATO doctrines and to interoperability.”

Ukraine’s entry into NATO is part of a process that began when President George W. Bush pushed through a promise in 2008 that both Ukraine and Georgia could one day become members. The Kyiv campaign received a boost in early 2014 when Russia invaded and subsequently annexed the Crimean peninsula. Stoltenberg claimed that Ukraine is now “much closer” to NATO than it was a few years ago.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has pushed for Ukraine’s NATO membership since the start of the Russian invasion, while Russian President Vladimir Putin cites NATO’s expansion into Eastern Europe and Ukraine’s possible accession as the main justification for his decision. to invade the country in February 2022. Kyiv views alliance membership as a cornerstone of its long-term defense and security.

NATO will agree to a long-term plan and a multi-year commitment to support Kyiv even after the Russian invaders leave Ukraine. According to Stoltenberg, the Alliance must ensure that Ukraine has the necessary capacity and strength to defend itself.

“There is still a long way to go to ensure that everything they do is fully interoperable with NATO,” he said.

Russian officials accused Kyiv of being behind a drone strike in Moscow on Tuesday that damaged at least three apartment buildings. Ukrainian authorities denied any responsibility for the attacks. While the United States and other NATO leaders say they are not seeking direct conflict with Moscow, Stoltenberg declined to criticize Ukraine over the drone tactic.

“Ukraine has the right to defend itself. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine is a flagrant violation of international law,” Stoltenberg said. “The right to self-defense is enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. There is no doubt that this is a war of aggression by Putin and Moscow against Ukraine.”

Mike Glenn