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Ukraine seeks fast-track membership as NATO drags feet

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky (centre) with Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and head of the Supreme Council of Ukraine Ruslan Stefanchuk, holds the NATO application in Kyiv on Friday (Image courtesy: Ukraine's Presidential Press Office)

Even as Ukraine continues to seek an accelerated membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the transatlantic military alliance of 30 North American and European countries has made it clear that its main focus and effort right now is to support Kyiv in countering Russia.

Immediately after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Friday the annexation of four partially occupied Ukrainian regions, his counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky declared that Ukraine is officially applying for NATO membership.

“We are de facto allies. This has already been achieved. De facto, we have already made our way to NATO. De facto, we have already proven compatibility with Alliance standards, they are real for Ukraine – real on the battlefield and in all aspects of our interaction,” he said in a televised speech recorded outside the presidential office.

Pushing the efforts for accelerated accession to NATO further, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba dialled NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday evening to brief them in detail on Ukraine’s NATO membership application.

Asserting that the future of the Euro-Atlantic space is at stake, Ukraine said that it is counting on a “positive change” in the position of NATO members – who were previously skeptical of Kyiv country joining the Alliance – in view of the fundamental change in the situation.

Addressing the ‘Edyny Novyni’ telethon on Ukrainian TV channels on Saturday, Kuleba said that the ball is now in NATO’s court, and if the Alliance decides to define a list of steps that Ukraine needs to complete in order to successfully complete the integration process, Kyiv is ready to implement them.

“The future of the Euro-Atlantic space is decided in Ukraine. Euro-Atlantic security is impossible without Ukraine’s victory,” the Ukrainian foreign minister said.

However, even though Ukraine appears quite convinced that the “logic and dynamics” have fundamentally changed, NATO does not appear to be very gung-ho about the speedy procedure for its membership.

“NATO Allies, when they met at the NATO Summit in Madrid, stated also very clearly, that we support Ukraine’s right to choose its own path, to decide what kind of security arrangements it wants to be part of. Then, a decision on membership, of course has to be taken by all 30 Allies and we take these decisions by consensus,” Stoltenberg said on Friday.

“Our focus now is on providing immediate support to Ukraine, to help Ukraine defend itself against the Russian brutal invasion. And then that’s the main focus and the main effort of NATO Allies, as we speak,” he added.

Far away in Washington, the US also made it clear that it supports an open-door policy for NATO but any decision on NATO membership is between the 30 Allies and the countries aspiring to join.

“Right now, our view is that the best way for us to support Ukraine is through practical, on-the-ground support in Ukraine, and that the process in Brussels should be taken up at a different time,” commented US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan at a press briefing on Friday.

The road ahead for Ukraine getting a fast-track NATO membership could be an uncertain and long one as Finland and Sweden are still waiting since July to join the military alliance.

So far, 28 out of 30 NATO members have ratified Finland and Sweden’s membership with Hungary and Turkey still not willing to approve the expansion.

Speaking in the parliament on Saturday, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated that Ankara will not ratify the NATO membership bids of the two Nordic countries until the promises made to his country are upheld.

Also Read: Russia slams US after Washington announces $1.1 billion more in military aid for Ukraine