In NATO, Ukraine

Zelensky with Stoltenburg. Photo credit: Presidential Administration of Ukraine via Wikimedia Commons.

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President Zelensky will not attend the bloc’s summit unless it shows “courage” on the accession process, a top official has said

NATO head Jens Stoltenberg and Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky give a joint press conference in Kiev, on April 20, 2023, © Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP

Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky will only attend NATO’s summit next month if the bloc begins to seriously consider Kiev’s request for membership, a deputy head of the country’s presidential office said on Thursday.

“The president will not travel… to the summit [on July 11-12] if the leaders will tend to or will show a deficit of courage,” Igor Zhovka told Reuters, explaining that there would be “no point.”

He noted that the US-led military alliance has already received an application from Ukraine, and that “the Vilnius summit would be a very good start” to respond to it. “And by respond, we mean an invitation for membership, which is only the first stage,” Zhovka stressed, adding that Ukraine only wants the bloc “to start the procedure.”

Ukraine formally applied to join NATO last autumn, after four of its former territories overwhelmingly voted to join Russia in public referendums, which were not recognised by Kiev or its allies. While NATO maintains its “open door” policy on Ukraine’s membership, it has not officially granted the request.

Moreover, while Zelensky has claimed that Ukraine is fully ready to join the alliance, he has acknowledged that it will be impossible while the conflict with Russia continues.

Earlier this week, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said serious discussions on the accession process could start on the condition that Kiev “prevails as a sovereign and independent nation in Europe,” and pledged that the bloc would “address Ukraine’s membership aspirations” only after the Vilnius summit.

Russia has for many years warned NATO against further eastward expansion, viewing the alliance as a security threat. Senior officials in Moscow have repeatedly cited Kiev’s desire to join the bloc as one of the reasons Russia launched its military operation in February 2022.


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prigozhin-in-exileUkrainian troops in the Donbass region, March 2015. (OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)