NATO SUMMIT: Ukraine will be invited to join 'when conditions are met'

NATO will invite Ukraine to join the military alliance, but only when member states agree and requirements are met, secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday at the Vilnius summit. There will be no invitation at the summit itself.

“We have said clearly that we will invite Ukraine to join NATO when the allies agree and the conditions are met,” he said at a press conference. “This is the first time we have used the word ‘invitation’.” 

He said allies had agreed a package to bring Ukraine closer to NATO, including a new aid programme that will run for several years. The programme should help rebuild its security and defence sector and cover resources such as fuel, demining equipment and medical supplies.

There will also be a new NATO-Ukraine Council for crisis consultations, “where we will meet on an equal footing”, Stoltenberg said. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is due to participate in the first session of the council on Wednesday.

"We also want to make sure we don’t get into a position where we as countries would be at war with Russia"

Belgian prime minister Alexander De Croo said Ukraine’s membership would “depend on a number of conditions”. A country at war would find it difficult to join NATO, he said, so “it is also very important to talk about concrete security guarantees”.

De Croo added that the issue was a sensitive one. “All NATO countries have been in a very difficult balancing act for 17 months,” he said. NATO is giving Ukraine support to defend itself, but “we also want to make sure we don’t get into a position where we as countries would be at war with Russia … I think it’s important for us, and also actually for Ukraine, that we can maintain that balance in the right way.”

Members have also approved the “most comprehensive defence plans since the end of the Cold War”, Stoltenberg said. The plans focus on Russia and terrorism, with the alliance aiming to have 300,000 troops in a higher state of readiness, backed by air and naval capabilities.


Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and Lithuanian president Gitanas Nauseda embrace after addressing the crowd at Lukiskes Square in Vilnius on 11 July 2023, during a NATO Summit © PETRAS MALUKAS / AFP

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