Ukraine on ‘irreversible path’ to membership

NATO members have pledged to support Ukraine’s “irreversible path” towards future membership, as well as pledging more support.

While an official timeline for Ukraine to join the military alliance was not agreed at the summit in Washington DC, the 32 members of the military alliance said they “fully support” Ukraine’s war effort.

Nato has also vowed to work more closely with the Ukrainian military and members have pledged €40bn ($43.3bn, £33.7bn) in aid over the next year, including F-16 fighter jets and air defence support.

“Support for Ukraine is not charity – it is in our own security interests,” said bloc Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

The ongoing aggression in Ukraine was at the top of the agenda at the NATO summit, and a statement agreed by all members said Russia “remains the most significant and direct threat” to security.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed that US-made F-16 jets are in the process of being delivered to Ukraine from Denmark and the Netherlands.

It will be the first time Ukraine has received the advanced aircraft, something Kyiv has long called for. Mr Blinken told the summit the jets would be operational “this summer”.

NATO members have agreed to create a new unit to coordinate military aid and training for the Ukrainian military as part of measures to strengthen ties between the alliance and Ukraine.

These measures, combined with aid pledges from individual members, “create a bridge to NATO membership for Ukraine,” the joint statement said.

The report said Ukraine had made “concrete progress” on “necessary democratic, economic and security reforms” in recent months – but the formal invitation to join would only be extended once “conditions are met”.

“As Ukraine continues this important work, we will continue to support it on its irreversible path towards full Euro-Atlantic integration, including NATO membership,” the statement added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been invited to attend the summit and meet world leaders, including his first meeting with Sir Keir Starmer since he became UK prime minister.

Sir Keir told Mr Zelensky there would be “no change in support” for Ukraine’s war effort despite the new government in London.

Mr Zelensky also met with US politicians from both the Democratic and Republican parties, a move designed to shore up cross-party support for Ukraine after a stalemate in Congress earlier this year saw Major military aid package delayed for months.

NATO leaders hope this week’s summit will provide an opportunity to present a united front on Ukraine after Russia’s modest gains on the battlefield in recent months.

However, there may be some frustration in Kyiv as there has been no clear public indication of when Ukraine will be granted full membership.

The summit – marking the 75th anniversary of the alliance’s founding – comes months before the US presidential election, which could see NATO critic Donald Trump return to the White House.

Responding to a BBC question, Mr Stoltenberg declined to say whether domestic US politics could impact the alliance.

“Nato is the most successful alliance in history because we can stay out of domestic political debates,” he said.

“It’s important to me to continue to do what I can to make sure that continues to be the case.”

US President Joe Biden used the summit to reaffirm his support for Ukraine and call on other members that are lagging on spending to invest more in defense.

He said Russia was in a “wartime position” in terms of defence production with support from Russia, North Korea and Iran – and leaders “cannot afford to let the alliance fall behind”.

“We can and will defend every inch of NATO territory,” the president added.


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