Stoltenberg: Ukraine’s NATO Membership Hinges on Victory Against Russia

NATO’s top official made his comments after the US had ruled out inviting Kiev into the alliance anytime soon

Ukraine must succeed in its conflict with Russia if it wants to join NATO, the alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said on Wednesday. He made his comments as NATO countries are set to meet for an annual summit in Washington on July 9-11.

“I expect that allies will actually make important announcements between now and the summit and also at the summit for more military equipment … which is urgently needed to ensure that Ukraine prevails as a sovereign independent nation,” Stoltenberg told reporters during a meeting of defense ministers in Brussels.

“And without that, of course, there is no membership issue to be discussed. We need to ensure that Ukraine prevails – that’s an absolute minimum for Ukraine to become a member of the alliance.”

Ukraine formally applied to join the US-led alliance in September 2022, citing its ongoing armed conflict with Russia. Despite Kiev’s requests for a swift path to membership, the alliance has so far refused to provide Ukraine with a timeline or a roadmap for accession. The allies have further ruled out admitting Ukraine until the conflict with Russia is resolved.

Ukrainian officials, nevertheless, have continued their push for concrete steps towards accession. “We also expect specific decisions regarding Ukraine’s membership in NATO, in a package with other guarantees of continuity of military aid and increased interoperability,” Olga Stefanishina, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister responsible for Euro-Atlantic integration, told Politico magazine this month.

The White House, however, said that Ukraine would not become a member of the alliance during the upcoming summit in Washington. “We do not anticipate that there’ll be an invitation for Ukraine to join NATO, but we think there will be a substantial show of support for Ukraine as it works to win its war,” US Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs James O’Brien said in May.

Since 2023, Ukraine has signed bilateral security pacts with several NATO members, including the UK, France and Germany. These agreements do not have the same power as Article 5 of the NATO Charter, however, which stipulates that an attack against one member must be treated as an attack against the alliance as a whole.

Russia has cited Ukraine’s aspirations to join NATO and the alliance’s continued expansion eastward as one of the root causes of the current conflict. Moscow views NATO as a threat to its security and has insisted that Ukraine must become a neutral country with limited armed forces.